Analysis | Does Ashok Gehlot’s outburst against Sachin Pilot deliver a message to Congress’ central leadership?

It is a reflection of the reducing clout of the party’s top leadership at a time when the Congress is witnessing a churn with regard to its leadership

Updated - December 04, 2021 10:33 pm IST

Published - July 21, 2020 11:49 am IST - New Delhi:

Ashok Gehlot

Ashok Gehlot

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s no-holds-barred attack against his former deputy , Sachin Pilot, isn’t just the outburst of a leader whose government has been facing a crisis because of the rebellion by Mr. Pilot and his supporters.

It is also a reflection of the reducing clout of the party’s top leadership at a time when the Congress is witnessing a churn with regard to its leadership.

Not only did the party’s top leadership disapprove of Mr. Gehlot's language, a section of the organisation believes that he is using the situation to sabotage conciliation efforts and drive Mr. Pilot to a point of no return.

While Mr. Gehlot called Mr. Pilot ‘ nikamma ’ [worthless], the same ‘worthless’ leader was being wooed by party’s top leaders such as Ahmed Patel, P. Chidambaram, K.C. Venugopal and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

“Such intemperate language shows the humiliation Mr. Pilot faced in the past one and half years. It only makes his case stronger,” a source close to the rebel Congress leader told The Hindu .

In fact, the Rajasthan crisis, and before that Jyotiraditya Scindia’s departure , has also challenged the notion that only the Gandhi family can hold together the Congress when ambitious leaders try to pull it in different directions.

Turf war

In the context of Rajasthan, one needs to go back to past events to understand the turf war that is playing out now.

First, let’s cut to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on May 25 last year when former party president Rahul Gandhi lashed out at some senior leaders who were ‘only interested’ in ensuring the win of their children in the Lok Sabha election.

Mr. Gehlot was at the receiving end as his son, Vaibhav, like former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s son, was contesting from the Jodhpur seat.

The Chief Minister’s son not only lost the Lok Sabha poll by a huge margin to the BJP’s Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, now at the heart of the audio leak controversy , but the Congress scored nil in a State where it had come to power just five months before the general election.

And the Congress had chosen Mr. Gehlot over Mr. Pilot as Chief Minister mainly because of his “experience” to deliver a good performance in the Lok Sabha poll.

Now, let’s rewind to January 2014 when Mr. Pilot, then a Union Minister, was appointed the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief . Just about a month before his appointment, the Congress under Mr. Gehlot lost the 2013 Assembly poll.

The results had merely reiterated the State’s history of electing a new government every five years but the margin of loss worried the Congress.

The party was reduced to 21 MLAs, its lowest tally in many years. So, the leadership decided to inject some young blood and fresh thinking.

Modi wave

The Narendra Modi wave had wiped out the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll but Mr. Pilot continued to exude confidence by winning the subsequent Assembly bypoll, panchayat poll and finally winning the bypolls to two Lok Sabha seats, Ajmer and Alwar, in February 2018.

Mr. Pilot was the hand-picked person of the Gandhis who was entrusted to win back the party’s support base in the Assembly election.

So by calling him ‘nikamma’ and ‘nakara’ [useless], Mr. Gehlot has perhaps sent a not-so-subtle message to the party high command about their leadership choice.

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