May 12, 2022 4:36:14 pm
There are few places that the Congress can call home now. Rajasthan is certainly one of them. One of only two states where it has a majority government of its own – the other being Chhattisgarh – the party has headed to Rajasthan every time it needs some away time. Whether that be sequestering MLAs from poaching, holding rallies or organising Chintan Shivirs, including the one to start in Udaipur on Friday.
This was first evident within a year of the party coming to power in Rajasthan towards the end of 2018. In November 2019, the Congress flew in its newly-elected MLAs from Maharashtra to Rajasthan, amidst the skullduggery over government formation in the state. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot personally oversaw the arrangements to keep the Maharashtra MLAs away from prying hands at a resort on the Delhi-Jaipur highway for several days, until the Congress, Shiv Sena and NCP worked out an unlikely alliance.
The CM deployed his trusted aides to ensure that the MLAs remained put as well as held meetings himself with them and former Maharashtra CMs Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan.
In the three years of his present tenure, Gehlot has proved an eager host at other party events as well, with every such high-profile intervention a score against his rivals.
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In early 2020, for example, the Congress sent its MLAs from Madhya Pradesh to Rajasthan, after Jyotiraditya Scindia switched to the BJP. Although the Congress couldn’t save its government in Madhya Pradesh, the more than 90 legislators it sent to Rajasthan remained loyal to the party.
So strong is the hold of Gehlot over the state that when there was a revolt against him, led by Sachin Pilot, in July-August 2020, he kept his loyalists within the state, where they were seen clearly enjoying themselves through a month-long stay at a hotel. He survived that scare easily.
Pilot found sanctuary for his 18 MLAs in Haryana, a BJP-ruled state, but had to make his way back to the Congress.
In December last year, Rajasthan was again the venue when the Congress planned a massive Mehangai Hatao rally against price rise, after it claimed to have been denied permission in New Delhi. Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra all attended, with Gehlot deputing his administration to ensure that the mega rally in Jaipur’s Vidyadhar Nagar Stadium went off without a hitch.
Now, ahead of the much-anticipated Chintan Shivir of the Congress, Gehlot has been camping in venue Udaipur to put things in place. He was in Udaipur as well a day after Jodhpur saw communal tension, inviting attacks by the BJP.
All the top leaders of the Congress will attend the three-day Udaipur session, including party president Sonia and former president Rahul, with expectations that the party might finally find some way out of the downward spiral it has been in.
The last such Congress conclave, incidentally, was also held in Rajasthan, back in 2013. Then too, Gehlot was the CM, in his earlier term. The Jaipur event had seen the elevation of Rahul Gandhi as vice-president of the party, marking his formal anointment at head of the Congress.
Confirming that CM Gehlot was “personally taking stock of all the arrangements in Udaipur for the Chintan Shivir”, state Congress spokesperson Swarnim Chaturvedi said: “He is always eager to take part in organisational activities, and the party’s main focus will be on organisational issues, along with factors influencing the youth, economy and farmers.”
A senior Congress leader said proximity to Delhi was one reason for Rajasthan’s popularity with the Congress. “It has good connectivity with Delhi and the National Capital Region. But the fact that the Congress has a strong government on its own in the state also gives Gehlot an edge over other states when it comes to hosting national party events outside Delhi,” the leader said.
Gehlot is upbeat about the Chintan Shivir. Speaking with the media, he has predicted “a grand success”.
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