Rajasthan Assembly Elections: How Congress Won 2018 Polls And Ashok Gehlot Sailed Through Infighting

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot survived an open rebellion of fellow Congress party leader Sachin Pilot to complete his term as the Rajasthan Chief Minister.

CM Ashok Gehlot at Guarantee Yatra in Jaipur

Even as the state unit of the Congress party has projected unity in the run-up to the Rajasthan assembly elections, the ride has not been smooth for Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot who was locked in a overt power tussle for years that continued right up to the months before the announcement of state elections. 

To placate the two power-centres in Rajasthan, the Congress high-command chose Gehlot as the Chief Minister and Sachin Pilot as the Deputy CM of Rajasthan after the party won the assembly elections in 2018. Pilot also held the powerful charge of the state party unit chief. 

The arrangement barely lasted for two years as Pilot rebelled with a group of loyalist MLAs in 2020. The rebellion eventually failed and Pilot was stripped of his posts of Deputy Chief Minister and state party chief. The key to the failure of Pilot's rebellion was the numbers stacked in Gehlot's favour. 

On the eve of the Rajasthan assembly election results, here is a recap of how 2018 assembly elections played out in the state. 

Congress increased tally by 4 times

In the Rajasthan assembly elections in 2018, Congress increased its tally by around four times. It went from 21 seats against the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) 163 in 2013 to getting 99 seats in the assembly elections. As polls were held on the 199 seats, the Congress crossed touched the majority-mark of 100 with one seat of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).

The then-Congress party chief Rahul Gandhi picked Gehlot to lead Rajasthan with Pilot as his deputy. He would also serve as the state party chief.

Moreover, Gehlot also had the support of a sufficient number of Independents which bolstered his position throughout his tenure, notes Tabeenah Anjum in an article for Outlook

"For the past five years, the Independent MLAs in the Rajasthan assembly have been key to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s agenda. Of the 13 Independents, 10 supported Gehlot twice. First, their support built his case for the chief ministership over that of Sachin Pilot. Second, the MLAs helped him sail through Pilot’s rebellion in 2020," notes Anjum.

In 2020, Pilot rebelled with 11-12 loyalist MLAs and while the drama stretched on and brought the party's infighting in the public domain, Gehlot survived and Pilot eventually returned to the party. He was stripped of all his posts. Even though the rebellion failed, Pilot continued to train guns at Gehlot up to months before the Rajasthan assembly elections 2023.

While Congress won 99 seats in 2018 polls, the latest tally of the outgoing assembly is as follows:

  • Congress      :  107
  • BJP               :   70 
  • Independent  :  13
  • RLP               :   3
  • BTP               :   2
  • RLD               :   1
  • Vacant           :   2
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