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Rajasthan Congress Turmoil: Will Ashok Gehlot Sail Through Another Storm?

Rajasthan Congress Turmoil: Will Ashok Gehlot Sail Through Another Storm?

The Congress in Rajasthan plunged into a crisis on Sunday after several MLAs loyal to Gehlot resigned over a possible move to appoint Pilot as Gehlot's successor. The rebellion erupted just ahead of a Congress Legislature Party meeting.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot

Rajasthan Chief Minister is once again in the docks with senior party leadership following a rebellion among Congress MLAs close to him ahead of the Congress Presidential elections. 

The Congress in Rajasthan plunged into a crisis on Sunday after several MLAs loyal to Gehlot resigned over a possible move to appoint Pilot as Gehlot's successor. The rebellion erupted just ahead of a Congress Legislature Party meeting.

With the recent developments, Gehlot's dream of becoming the party President and replacing Sonia Gandhi, may not come true yet. As per reports, Gandhi is "upset" over the open rebellion in Rajasthan and has sought a written report on it on Monday from party observers Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken.

With chances of Gehlot becoming the party chief slimming, other names cropped up for the post. 

This, however, is not the first time that the Rajasthan Chief Minister has found himself in a tough spot, politically. 

The Gehlot government was in troubled waters in July 2020 when Pilot, considered the frontrunner for the CM post if Ashok Gehlot resigned after being elected as the Congress national president, was sacked as the deputy CM and the PCC president for leading a rebellion against Gehlot in 2020. He only returned after having a chat with Rahul Gandhi to bury the hatchet. Despite the forced ceasefire by Congress high command, relations between Gehlot and Pilot have remained tense. The current revolt reflects the influence the 40-year-old leader continues to exert. Amid the current crisis, reports of Pilot visiting Delhi have also stoked speculation, though sources close to the leader state he has gone for personal work.

Gehlot, who was elected CM in 2018 after winning the battle between the old and new guard in Rajasthan Congress, was previously pulled up by the party in September 2011 when Sonia Gandhi called him during his first tenure as CM to express her displeasure at the developments in Rajasthan. At the time, the Gehlot government had been marred by its poor handling of five consecutive communal incidents in three weeks, senior ministers in the Gehlot government being linked to women, one of whom was dead, among other issues. An India Today report at the time noted that Rahul Gandhi had "serious reservations" against continuing with Gehlot as the Rajasthan CM. 

And yet, when the time came in 2018, the party chose to go with the old guard, assuming that the senior leader's experience would translate into better political aptitude over Pilot's obvious popularity with the youth. Many political observers have since noted that it was a mistake to pick Gehlot over Pilot for CM. In 2021, there were efforts to broker a truce between the two leaders but the party was unable to solve the rift between the two. Now, with the Presidential election triggering a power struggle in the state, the rift is once again out in the open.

It was Gehlot, however, the three-time Rajasthan CM, who was instrumental in securing Congress a victory in 2013.

Gehlot is also credited with bringing up the Congress tally from 21 to 100 in 2013. With the support of his MLAs, Gehlot seems to be in no mood to vacate his seat for Pilot.  As the split in Rajasthan Congress deepens, it remains to be seen how Gehlot gets out of yet another sticky mess.

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