NEW DELHI: Last year’s crisis in Rajasthan that the Congress papered over by setting up a committee to address the issues raised by then deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot against chief minister Ashok Gehlot have resurfaced, with the former expressing his displeasure at the lack of action.
“It has now been 10 months. I was given to understand that there would be swift action by the committee, but now half of the term is done, and those issues haven’t been resolved. It is unfortunate that so many of the party workers who worked and gave their all for getting us the mandate are not being heard,” said Pilot, refusing to elaborate on his next move. One of his key supporters, MLA Hemaram Choudhary, resigned suddenly last month.
HT learns the central leadership of the Congress is trying to work out a cabinet reshuffle in Rajasthan.
Pilot told Hindustan Times that the Congress high command has failed to deliver on the promises that were made to him when he along with 18 legislators returned to the party after a month-long drama.
In July last year, Pilot and his supporters left Jaipur to camp at a secret location in Haryana, threatening the stability of the Ashok Gehlot government. Pilot was removed as Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president, and it was only when the Gandhis intervened and set up a committee under general secretary Ajay Maken that he returned to the fold. However, the dilemma for the central leadership now is to find a solution that is acceptable to both chief minister Gehlot and Pilot.
“It is not the right time for me to speak,’’ said Maken when contacted by HT. “However, there are vacancies in the Rajasthan government, and they are likely to be filled soon,” he added.
A cabinet reshuffle isn’t a straightforward solution. There are nine vacancies in the Rajasthan cabinet as there can be 30 ministers but only 21 currently. Of the nine vacancies, three were created when Pilot supporters were sacked last year for the rebellion. Now, Pilot may want more of his supporters to find a place in the cabinet, but Gehlot is pitching for independents and former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) legislators who saved his government during the floor test last August.
“Just like Pilot may have been promised that his grievances will be heard, these independent legislators were also promised they would be accommodated if they supported the Congress. This cannot be ignored ,” said a Congress leader on condition of anonymity.
The leader quoted above said that they appreciated Pilot’s contribution which led to a consolidation of Gujjar votes for the Congress in the state, but the chief minister had also proved himself by winning the recent bypolls. He attributes the 10-month delay to the death of senior leader Ahmed Patel , as he was the crisis manager working out the details of Pilot’s return. But the January reorganisation of the state party unit accommodated Pilot’s team . For example, of the eight general secretaries, at least three are Pilot’s candidates and one of his team members has also been made vice president, this leader added.
“Ashok Gehlot is the senior most Congress person that we have right now as he is a three-time chief minister and was a Union minister before that. He also got 10% more votes in the bypolls than he did in 2018, so how can we not go with him?” asked this person.
However, there is agreement within the party that a solution acceptable to Pilot will have to be found, and that might mean that one of the two leaders takes on a bigger role in the central organisation. The chief minister’s office did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.
‘’The only way to sort things out will be a genuine commitment of both of them to work with each other, which is easier said than done. Gehlot has to show a large heart and accommodate Pilot who must — on his part — be comfortable to contest the 2023 election under Gehlot’s leadership. Till a public announcement of this kind is made, these exercises of cabinet reshuffle will be cosmetic and in fact, will end up creating more problems for both camps,’’ said political commentator Sanjeev Srivastava.