Uncertainty lingers, Ashok Gehlot tries to show all is well in his State

Upcoming ‘Invest Rajasthan Summit-2022’ gives the Chief Minister the opportunity to show all is well after he lost the opportunity to be next Congress president

Updated - October 06, 2022 12:42 pm IST

Published - October 05, 2022 10:03 pm IST - JAIPUR/DELHI

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot meets his sister Vimla Shankhla in Jodhpur, on October 5, 2022.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot meets his sister Vimla Shankhla in Jodhpur, on October 5, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Almost a week after the Congress central leadership left the question of a change of guard in Rajasthan open, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is trying to project an image of continuity by packing his schedule with official meetings, overseeing preparations for the Invest Rajasthan Summit-2022 in Jaipur on October 7-8, and even hinting that he will present the State’s Budget next year as well. Speculation is rife that the Rajasthan question will be settled after October 19, when the new Congress president takes over.

Mr. Gehlot’s business-as-usual approach comes even as some MLAs who earlier stood by him are now signalling a rethink in favour of the rival claimant for the top post, Sachin Pilot. The former Deputy CM is busy mending relationships with detractors and consolidating his support base. On Monday night, he visited Cabinet Minister Pratap Singh Kachariyawas, who has been a vociferous advocate for Mr. Gehlot in the current crisis. A day later, he hosted some legislators at his residence, including Minister Rajendra Gudha, who had switched to the Pilot camp from the Gehlot faction.

The Chief Minister’s diminished stature after his supporters boycotted a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting on September 25 is also causing a churn. “On September 25, Gehlot was not only the outgoing Chief Minister, he was also in a way Congress president-designate. Which MLA would want to challenge his authority at such a stage?” said a legislator who proclaims his neutrality from the two warring camps.

Many in the party central leadership feel there should be action against Mr. Gehlot for undermining the “institution” of Congress president. “The decision to pick the next Rajasthan Chief Minister after Gehlot was the last one Sonia Gandhi would have taken as the president of the party. Gehlot denied her this chance. Also, the September 25 events have set a bad precedent by challenging the office of Congress president,” a Lok Sabha MP said.

The Gehlot camp, however, continues to be confident that the Chief Minister’s writ will prevail. “He has already been punished. He publicly apologised [for his supporters’ skipping the CLP meeting], which is a big thing. And secondly, he missed out on the historic opportunity to be Congress president. He has already paid a hefty price, so it is unlikely that he will be asked to vacate his chair now when things have just about settled,” said a Rajasthan Congress leader.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister himself has had a busy week. On Monday, he cleared the appointment of Sangeet Beniwal as Chairperson of the Rajasthan State Commission for Protection of Child Rights. On Tuesday, he monitored the progress of anti-corruption cases, attended a Dasara festival at Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur and issued instructions to the Secretaries of all departments to speed up implementation of the 2022-23 budgetary announcements. On Wednesday, he presided over a review meeting on redressal of public grievances and attended Dasara festivities in his hometown, Jodhpur, in the evening. On Thursday, he will visit Raipur in Bhilwara district to lay the foundation stone for a 220 KV power grid sub-station.

In the last nine days, the State administration, according to sources, has displayed a rare alacrity in clearing projects and appointments.

“I understand that there will be no delay in the Budget presentation, because everyone has to face the election after the [budgetary] exercise,” Mr. Gehlot told reporters on Tuesday after meeting the Secretaries. He said the 2023-24 budget would be dedicated to the youth and urged the people to the vote for Congress to facilitate the execution of welfare schemes.

Memorandums of Understanding and Letters of Intent worth ₹10.44 lakh crore have also been signed ahead of the October 7-8 investment summit, an event that has afforded the Chief Minister the opportunity to portray that all is well after he lost out on the chance of becoming the next Congress president.

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