The month-long crisis in the Rajasthan Congress may have ended today, but the truce appeared fragile and uneasy. And all indications are that the tussle between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot is far from over.
For the moment, Gehlot has emerged stronger, having foiled an attempt to topple his government and dethrone him. He has managed to retain the MLAs who were with him. A master tactician with years of political experience, he is firmly in the saddle for now.
He ejected Pilot from the state cabinet and got him removed as state Congress president. Pilot, sources said, is unlikely to get these posts back. It is to be seen how Gehlot consolidates his position further in the coming months.
On the other hand, sources close to Pilot said that he has been able to get an assurance from the leadership that he could be considered for the chief minister’s job closer to the Assembly elections due in December 2023. According to sources, he could be offered the post of AICC general secretary in Delhi for now. But sources close to him said he is not interested in shifting base to Delhi and would prefer to remain in Jaipur.
A written commitment to set up a high-level panel to address the issues raised by him and reiteration of an unwritten intent to make him chief minister is what Pilot has managed to extract after a month-long rebellion. The Pilot camp claims Gehlot’s conduct and use of language has not gone down well with the party high command, and that is a bonus point for him.
Sources said during Pilot’s two-hour-long meeting with Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, there was a “meeting of minds on generally what is to be done.” Pilot, according to these sources, said he realised that replacing Gehlot was not immediately possible and he would have to wait for some more time.
While sources said there is an assurance of a change of guard, Pilot is learnt to have left the timing to the high command. “If it is too late… then there is no point doing it. It has to be a reasonable time, so that he can leave a mark and move into elections…there is a realisation that it is inevitable,” said a senior party leader.
For now, some of the 18 MLAs in Pilot’s camp may find a place in the state cabinet as and when a reshuffle takes place. Sources said his loyalists who were sacked as heads of the Youth Congress and NSUI state units could also be rehabilitated. The cases against all the rebels will be dropped too, sources said.
For the Congress, it has managed to buy some time and save its government. While senior leader Ahmed Patel and AICC in-charge of organisation K C Venugopal worked behind the scenes, the party consciously roped in former president Rahul Gandhi to send out the message that he is involved in crisis management and is still calling the shots.
In the past, Rahul was criticised for remaining aloof and not showing eagerness to resolve crises, the last major one being in Madhya Pradesh.
The crisis also saw Priyanka emerging from behind the scenes to actively involve herself in party affairs outside Uttar Pradesh. She remained in touch with Pilot throughout, and held a meeting with him about a fortnight ago. The party ensured that a photograph of the meeting that Priyanka, Patel and Venugopal had with Pilot and his MLAs reached the media.
At a time when there is much talk about the friction between the young and the old in the Congress, the idea was to show that both were working together to resolve the crisis.