As Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra (BJY) entered Rajasthan on Sunday evening, it will not only test the delicate “unity” between Chief Ashok Gehlot and former Deputy CM Sachin Pilot but, importantly, between their supporters too.
Ahead of its entry, hoardings, posters and banners have been put up all along the Yatra route in Rajasthan. However, it has turned into a case of constant one-upmanship. On Saturday, some hoardings of Sachin Pilot, installed by his supporters, were removed by the Jhalawar district administration since these were allegedly installed without permission and in violation of rules.
Jhalawar Municipal Council Commissioner Ruhi Tarannum told The Indian Express, “I am not entirely aware; it was done by our Council workers. Some illegal hoardings were removed mainly outside the district hospital.”
A Pilot loyalist alleged, “The hoardings were removed at the behest of the Pradesh Congress Committee, which replaced them with its own hoardings.”
Following weeks of a renewed political slugfest between the two leaders, which began on September 25, All India Congress Committee (AICC) organisation in-charge KC Venugopal brokered a truce between Gehlot and Pilot on November 29.
He met the two behind closed doors and also held a press conference addressed by both Gehlot and Pilot. In a separate meeting the same day to review the Yatra, he warned party workers and told ministers that if they did not stop commenting on party matters they might be dropped from their posts.
While both Gehlot and Pilot have been asked to fall in line, especially considering the Yatra, the truce between the top leaders seems at best a temporary ceasefire to put on their best behaviour before Rahul Gandhi and focus on the march. Ashok Gehlot and the Govind Singh Dotasra-led PCC are expected to ensure that it is a success in Rajasthan since it is the first and only Congress-ruled state the Yatra is set to pass through. Party leaders, including Venugopal, have emphasised that the Yatra’s Rajasthan leg will be “number 1” among all the states.
— Congress (@INCIndia) December 4, 2022
However, while MLAs and some outspoken ministers may also fall in line, even if temporarily, supporters on the ground may not have much to lose and may try to assert their leader’s authority. Pilot’s supporters on September 12 disrupted an address by minister Ashok Chandna during the asthi-visarjan ceremony (immersion of ashes) of late Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla in Ajmer’s Pushkar.
During the state leg, Rahul Gandhi may indulge in symbolic gestures to indicate unity between the two leaders. But in the absence of efforts by the party leadership to address the Pilot camp’s ambitions, it remains to be seen how the Yatra plays out, especially in some Pilot strongholds such as Dausa, and how his enthusiastic and restless supporters respond to it.
From Agar Malwa in Madhya Pradesh, the Yatra entered Chawli in Jhalawar on Sunday evening. Till December 21, the last day of the Yatra in the state, there are two break days, December 9 and December 17. The first coincides with the birthday of Sonia Gandhi, while the latter coincides with the fourth anniversary of the state government. Gehlot took oath as CM on December 17, 2018.