Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot is known to be a cool-headed politician—one not prone to betray his sentiments in public. Wily, back-channel political machinations had always been his forte. These facets of Gehlot have held him in good stead for the past 45 years of his political journey, allowing him to artfully sideline equally worthy competitors. Yet, over the past fortnight, as his government teeters on the brink of collapse in the face of Sachin Pilot’s rebellion, Gehlot has had two intemperate outbursts.
Earlier this week, Gehlot thrashed Pilot as a leader who went from being a Lok Sabha MP at the age of 26 years to becoming the deputy CM by the time he was 40 years old. “Mere good looks and command over English and Hindi don’t make you a leader; you need commitment and ideology too,” the CM, often mimicked by detractors for his near-absent English skills, said of Pilot. Days later, he described Pilot as a “nakara aur nikamma” state Congress president.
Gehlot’s verbal assault against Pilot, who continues to claim the support of 18 Congress MLAs in his bid to dethrone the third-term CM, came amid frenetic attempts by a section in his party to contain the rebellion, and broker a truce between the warhorse and his bête noire. Sources said the party high command asked Gehlot to hold his punches.
A section in the Congress, surprisingly comprising some key members of the party’s infamous old guard, are still keen on pacifying Pilot. A division bench of the Rajasthan High Court, which heard petitions by Pilot and his loyalists challenging Speaker C.P. Joshi’s disqualification notices to them, reserved its order in the matter till July 24.
While this breather to Pilot gives him additional time to sort out his future course of action, leaders in...