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Congress leadership working to unite rival Rajasthan factions

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot with Sachin Pilot. File   | Photo Credit: Rohit Jain Paras

The Congress party’s top leadership is working on a formula to bring the rival factions of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot to a compromise, but differences over the number of Ministerial portfolios to be allotted to the Pilot camp is holding up the expansion of the State government in Rajasthan, a highly placed source said on Saturday.

However, contrary to media reports, there were no meetings between Mr. Pilot, who arrived in Delhi late on Friday evening, and the central leadership, on the issue of Cabinet expansion.

Of the nine available Ministerial slots in the State Cabinet, the source cited above told The Hindu that the Pilot camp expected six-seven positions. They argue that this was what was promised to them by the late Ahmed Patel, one of the key negotiators with Mr. Pilot when the latter had revolted against Mr. Gehlot in July 2020.

After Mr. Pilot led an unsuccessful rebellion against Mr. Gehlot last July, his camp lost three slots, including Mr. Pilot’s position as the deputy CM. The Pilot camp had then complained that the Chief Minister had kept far too many portfolios with himself.

Also read: Sachin Pilot dismisses reports of being in touch with BJP leaders

But the Congress party’s central leadership has to proceed cautiously as the Gehlot government has to keep in mind 18 lawmakers — 12 independent MLAs and six former Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs who merged with the Congress — who also expect to be “rewarded” by the Gehlot government.

“Once both sides agree to a number, the next stage of identifying the Ministries and the criteria to become Ministers won’t be a problem,” said a senior Rajasthan leader.

This leader said that the criteria to become a Minister would include seniority of the MLAs as well as the caste and region they represent.

“We not only have to ensure no first MLA from the Sachin camp becomes a Minister as we have more than half a dozen MLAs who have won five-six terms, it is also important that the new Cabinet represents the State in terms of regions and castes,” he said.

On Friday, All India Congress Committee in-charge Ajay Maken had asserted that there would soon be an expansion of the Ashok Gehlot government but hadn’t spelt out a specific timeline.

Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief Govind Singh Dotasra reiterated Mr. Maken’s statement and asserted that there was no problem in the Rajasthan unit of the party.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 8:17:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/congress-leadership-working-to-unite-rival-rajasthan-factions/article34800523.ece

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