The Congress government in Rajasthan has completed three years in power. Chief minister Ashok Gehlot may claim to have converted 70% of the promises made in the Congress manifesto into a policy document but the road ahead for the government is full of challenges.
Presenting a united front and saving Congress government in Rajasthan remains one of the major achievements of three-time Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. But at the same time, with assembly elections just two years away, there are five big challenges for the Congress government, which includes – strengthening the party, resolving the feud between the two factions, political appointments, reviving support of minority and marginalized communities, implementation of farm loan waiver and creation of jobs for the unemployed youth.
Talking about the state government’s achievements during the last three years, at Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, Gehlot claimed that more than 70% of promises made in the Congress manifesto have converted into a policy document and 85% of the budget announcements made in the last three years had been executed.
However, the opposition BJP has hit the Gehlot government for not fulfilling its promises. Rajasthan BJP president Satish Poonia has termed Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, a 'ghoshnajeevi' and accused him of only making announcements for the last three years.
The Five Challenges ahead
One of the major challenges for the Gehlot government is to give loan waivers to farmers and create jobs for the unemployed. While farm loans availed from state cooperative banks have been waved off as per the Congress’ promise made in the manifesto, waiver of loans availed from national and commercial banks is still pending. Similarly, the unemployed youth have been staging protests consistently demanding jobs and monthly allowance as promised in the manifesto.
“In the 2018 manifesto, Congress had promised to waive the entire loan of all farmers but 60 lakh farmers are still waiting for the loan waiver. Instead of fulfilling the announcements and promises, the chief minister is fooling people around him and busy making fake announcements but there is nothing on the ground," Poonia alleged.
Similarly, strengthening the party in the state and resolving the feud among the two factions in Congress still remains one of the foremost challenges for Gehlot who has been making claims to return to power in 2023. He may have tried to appease all communities and factions within the party by accommodating their members in his council of ministers but the Congress leader still faces many challenges.
With 15 ministers inducted into the existing pool, Rajasthan now has 30 members in its council of ministers including Chief Minister Gehlot, the maximum it can have.
Out of the 15 new ministers, five were among the eighteen loyalists of Sachin Pilot, who stood with him during the month-long political crisis that engulfed the state in July 2020.
“The Congress government has tried to appease all factions by accommodating people in his council but the major task still remains to remove differences in the ground. The focus should now be on empowering the ground workers and leaders with different roles”, a senior Congress leader told Outlook.
Several Congress party members have also been demanding to accommodate them on various posts in many boards, corporations, commissions and even state statutory bodies – such as the Women Commission, Minorities Commission and SC Commission. The posts in these commissions are lying vacant and the bodies have been run by the bureaucrats. Moreover, the National Commission of Women members had also taken cognizance and slammed the Gehlot government for not constituting the state Women Commission, especially when the NCRB's latest data has shown crime against women is rising in the state.
“The party members especially those leaders who have lost in the elections or have been working on the ground are eyeing at these posts. But because of the factionalism, their appointments were kept on hold. But after the cabinet expansion to fill up these posts should be the priority of the Congress government”, said a Congress leader.
Besides ensuring the truce within the two factions, another challenge will be appeasing marginalized and minority votes, with an eye on Assembly elections just two years away.
Gehlot has managed to include members of all communities in the cabinet including four Scheduled Caste (SC) members for the first time, three ministers from the Scheduled Tribe (ST) community. The newly formed cabinet also has three women—Muslim, one from the SC community and one from the Gujjar community. Despite the inclusion of minority members in the cabinet, that challenges are still high, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) is set to make its debut in Rajasthan.
One month ago Asadudin Owaisi, the AIMIM chief made it official that his party would be launched in Rajasthan within two months which would contest the Rajasthan assembly elections in 2023. However, he did not disclose the number of assembly seats and constituencies the party would contest on.
“The political parties such as AIMIM, BTP and BSP, could be a challenge for the Congress party in 2023 polls. While AIMIM is all trying its best to woo minority voters, the BSP supremo Mayawati will also leave no stone unturned to take revenge from the Congress government which managed to poach six MLAs of the BSP”, a senior Congress leader close to Gehlot told Outlook.
While the challenges remain there for the Congress government to repeat in 2023, CM Gehlot not only sounded confident but also claimed that the people of Rajasthan love him and want him back. Speaking at the first convocation ceremony of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar Law University at Birla Auditorium in Jaipur, he added "If people of '36 castes' had not loved me and people of the state did not trust me, I wouldn't have become CM for the three times. I am sure that our party will return to power in 2023 polls”.
Meanwhile while realising that polls are two years away, in an attempt to resolve problems of the public and strike a dialogue with them, the party has already made a roster for jansunvai (public hearing) which will take place on the first three days of a week.