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Rajasthan: Sachin Pilot’s Jan Sangharsh Yatra Was A Show Of Strength, Brought Internal Tussle Out In Public

Upon the completion of the five-day march from Ajmer to Jaipur, Congress leader Sachin Pilot gave a 15-day ultimatum to his own party’s government in Rajasthan to act on his three demands on corruption or face a state-wide agitation.

Sachin Pilot at a public meeting
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The Congress party may have performed a clean sweep in the Karnataka assembly elections, but the challenges are still not over for the grand old party. 

In December, the three Hindi heartland states of Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan are slated to go to polls. Congress currently rules Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. In 2018, the Congress had come to power in Madhya Pradesh as well, but the Kamal Nath-led government was toppled two years later when Jyotiraditya Scindia—now a Union minister— rebelled along with 22 MLAs.

The case in Rajasthan is not very different than Madhya Pradesh. The infighting between the Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot has continued throughout, even as the former has tried his best to keep the government intact despite several “threats” and “insecurities” surfacing in the party over the years. 

The latest case of such infighting is Pilot’s five-day foot march from Ajmer to Jaipur.

Sachin Pilot’s show of strength 

Lately, Pilot has been targeting Gehlot over inaction regarding the alleged corruption in the previous state government led by Vasundhara Raje of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

A month ago, Pilot sat on a one-day sit-in protest against corruption, pressurising his own party leaders to act on the corruption cases once raised by the party against the BJP. 

A month later, 45-year-old Pilot took out a five-day Jan Sangharsh Yatra from Ajmer to Jaipur.

In the five-days yatra, Pilot was flanked by his supporters and petal-showers and national flags were a constant. On the culmination day, he was joined by 13 loyalist MLAs and two ministers in the Gehlot cabinet, Hemaram Choudhary and Rajendra Gudha; five heads of boards; seven state-level Congress officials; 10 district Congress presidents; and 20 MP and MLA candidates.

The public meeting, held in the outskirts of Jaipur on Monday, is seen as the show of strength by Pilot. 

Upon the completion of the march, Pilot gave a 15-day ultimatum to his own party’s government in Rajasthan to act on his three demands on corruption or face a state-wide agitation.

Sachin Pilot’s demands

Interestingly, while speaking openly about the lack of investigation on corruption charges, Pilot as well as his loyalists made public statements indicating that they shall continue to stick with the party and also repeatedly mentioned that the yatra is not against one individual but against the corruption.

“Nothing would scare or suppress me and I will continue to serve the people of Rajasthan till his last breath. Despite facing abuses, I have worked for strengthening the party organisation when others took advantage,” said Pilot, while he was joined by his loyalists.

While calling for a high-level probe into the alleged instances of corruption during BJP’s Raje’s tenure, Pilot demanded the disbanding and reconstitution of the Rajasthan Public Service Commission (RPSC). 

“Around 20-25 lakh youths appear for government examinations in Rajasthan every year and are affected by paper leaks. The payment of compensation to youths affected by the cancellation of government recruitment exams after the question paper leaks should be made,” added Pilot while striking a chord with thousands of young supporters who attended his public meeting.

Besides the corruption issue, another point that Pilot has not failed to raise repeatedly in his addresses at multiple places is the incident which took place on September 25, 2022, where Gehlot loyalists had boycotted the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting when there were talks of Pilot being made the Chief Minister of Rajasthan. 

This refers to the run-up of the Congress party presidential elections when it was being said that the high command wished for Gehlot to become the party chief, paving the way for Pilot to be the CM. Ultimately, Gehlot withdrew from the race and continued as Rajasthan CM.

Pilot’s allegations were publicly hailed by his loyalist MLA Mukesh Bhakar and Cabinet minister Hemaram Choudhary. The duo reminded the public at the rally of Gehlot's recent statement made in Dholpur, where the latter had said that Raje saved the Congress government from a political crisis back in 2020. The pilot camp’s comments were the sharpest attack on Gehlot since the political crisis enfolded in Rajasthan in 2020.

Pilot’s allegation was countered by Gehlot loyalist and Cabinet minister Mahesh Joshi who called it baseless and unfortunate. 

“When it comes to corruption, the policies of chief minister have been at the forefront by adopting a policy of zero tolerance. The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has acted strictly against everyone without considering the party or the background,” Joshi said.

What’s next in Rajasthan?

Verbal duels between Gehlot and Pilot supporters over the past three years have now snowballed into an all-out war in the wake of the recent crisis. 

While Pilot has made his stance clear in the public after an open rebellion by holding a sit-in protest and five-day yatra, the onus is now on the Congress high command to bring the two factions together ahead of the assembly polls later this year. 

The Congress presidential election was not the first time the factionalism between the Gehlot-Pilot groups came in the open. In 2018, after Congress came to power in Rajasthan, Pilot was promised that the job of chief minister would be shared between him and Gehlot. While Gehlot was sworn in as the chief minister, Pilot was appointed as his deputy. Unhappy with the post, Pilot rebelled in 2020 along with his 18 loyalist MLAs who went to Delhi and camped for over a month which resulted in a political crisis in Rajasthan. Simultaneously, he was removed from the post of Deputy CM and the state unit of the party.

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In the 200-member Rajasthan assembly, the ruling Congress has 106 MLAs, the BJP 71, the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) three, the CPI(M) and Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) two each, and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) one. The Assembly has 13 independent legislators

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