After Jyotiraditya Scindia’s resignation from the Congress, there is a lot of speculation in the political arena that many other young Congress guns could follow suit.
Many of these leaders, such as Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora, Jitin Prasad, have been facing similar questions about:
the prospects of the Congress party in the Indian political landscape, and
their own future in the Congress where the ‘old guard’ seems to have again taken control with the return of Sonia Gandhi as interim president of the party.
Before the Lok Sabha elections there were rumours of Jitin Prasad from Uttar Pradesh leaving the party, but the then Congress president Rahul Gandhi intervened and he stayed back. He could very well be the next to quit the Congress.
However, the buzz is the strongest about Sachin Pilot. He has been sharing a love-hate relationship with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for the past 15 months. Sachin is the state president as well as deputy chief minister in the Congress government there.
While he aspired to be the chief minister and played a key role in the Congress’s victory in Rajasthan, the party went ahead and made Ashok Gehlot the state CM.
Things have not been really good between the two. There is cold war between the two camps. Gehlot not only sees Pilot as competition but also a major roadblock since he (Gehlot) wishes to establish his son, Vaibhav, in the state politics.
Both Gehlot and Pilot have attacked each other in the past without taking each other’s name. After the Lok Sabha election debacle in 2019, Gehlot said Pilot should take responsibility for the rout. But Pilot hit back saying that Gehlot focused only on his son Vaibhav’s seat in Jodhpur and did not campaign throughout the state.
Recently, after more than 100 infants died at a government hospital in Kota, Gehlot issued a statement in which he said such deaths do happen. Pilot attacked his own government saying that it should have been more humane in handling the crisis.
“The files of Panchayat Raj and Rural Development Department, which is with Pilot, don’t go to the CMO and the CM has never held review of these departments even though he has reviewed almost all other departments,” said an officer of the principal secretary rank requesting anonymity to Hindustan Times.
Many voters feel that the infighting is affecting the government. It is seen as the head of the party and head of the government moving in different directions. It has led to the creation of two power centers.
Before the municipal elections, the government brought a new rule that unelected members could stand for the post of Mayor and head of municipal corporations. Pilot opposed this move citing this will lead to back-door entry into civic bodies. This forced the government to withdraw the circular.
Sachin Pilot is a shrewd politician and will weigh his options before he takes a final call.
In my opinion, he is likely to stay put with the Congress. Why? Because, unlike Jyotiraditya Scindia, he holds powerful positions of PCC president and deputy chief minister. He knows he is the only choice after Gehlot. He just has to bide his time. He and his supporters are in the government enjoying power.
Unlike Scindia, he is not desperate. There is limited upside for him if he joins the Bharatiya Janata Party. He will leave the Congress only if he gets a better deal and that too only if he is made the Rajasthan chief minister.
It will be very difficult for the BJP to make him the chief minister. There are other stalwarts in the party, such as Vasundhara Raje, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Om Mathur, Om Birla, et cetera who will not let this happen.
BJP would need his support to topple the Congress government and install its own chief minister. Why would Sachin be interested unless he is made the chief minister?
The only way the BJP can make him Rajasthan chief minister is when he breaks away a significant number of MLAs from Congress which is higher than BJP’s strength in the Assembly.
In a house of 200 seats, the Congress has 101, while the BJP has 72 MLAs. To achieve this, Sachin has to break away more than three-fourths of the Congress party, which looks difficult.
But this has come as a blessing in disguise for Sachin. He can use this opportunity to pressurise the Congress High Command to make him CM sooner rather than later.
Learning from the disaster in Madhya Pradesh, the party High Command would be more sympathetic to his demands. It has already done a better power balancing structure in Rajasthan compared to Madhya Pradesh.
Interesting times ahead.