After sorting out the longstanding Captain Amarinder-Navjot Singh Sidhu rift in Punjab, the Congress has now turned its attention towards Rajasthan in hopes of resolving the Sachin Pilot-Ashok Gehlot stand-off with an eye on the 2023 Assembly elections.
The greater good
In keeping with this goal, Congress in-charge of Rajasthan affairs Ajay Maken, who will spend two days in Rajasthan, reached the state on Wednesday and met legislative Assembly speaker CP Joshi. He is slated to meet the party MLAs and supporters ahead of a likely cabinet reshuffle.
Interestingly, Pilot, one of the main stakeholders in the issue, is currently in Delhi.
The cabinet reshuffle, which is likely to witness some of Pilot’s loyalists being brought into the fold, is being seen as the political silver bullet for all problems in Rajasthan. At present, there are 21 members in the council of ministers, including the chief minister, and nine positions are vacant. Rajasthan can have a maximum of 30 ministers.
Meanwhile, Maken has maintained that there is no conflict among party leaders and they all have left the final decision about the cabinet expansion to the party high command.
A festering problem
- The Pilot-Gehlot faceoff began after the former and his loyalists were allegedly sidelined following the formation of the Congress government in December 2018.
- Since then both factions and their heads have openly criticised one another — Gehlot called Pilot ‘nikamma’, ‘nakaraa’, ‘gaddar’ and accused him of conspiring with the BJP to topple the Congress govt, while Pilot has openly called out the Gehlot government for the poor law and order condition in the state.
- But a study of Pilot-Gehlot rift timeline shows that while it continued to simmer, any uptick in hostility was curbed by the intervention of the Congress high command.
- The cabinet expansion must be seen in this context. Unless the Congress central leadership does away with the stopgap solutions, they will enter the 2023 Assembly election a house divided — a dangerous gambit given the Congress’s fast disappearing footprints in the country.
Inclusion is key
While sources have revealed both camps have agreed to this solution, what needs to be seen is how the vacancies would be filled and what role Pilot will be assigned. Meanwhile, it cannot be forgotten that former Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leaders who merged their party with the Congress also are waiting to be rewarded. The way the appointments are made will determine whether peace will prevail.
This is because Pilot's issue was not about ministerial berths but about giving dignity to leaders who worked hard to bring the party to power. Therefore, what is acceptable to Pilot camp remains anyone’s guess.