The rift between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot was an open secret. Both leaders targeted each other without taking names since the Congress returned to power in the state in December 2018. The seeds of the power tussle were sown ever since the party high command chose Gehlot over Pilot as Rajasthan Chief Minister. The Congress leadership was also convinced that the party’s 2019 Lok Sabha election tally might improve under Gehlot's leadership. However, the Congress suffered massive drubbing in the 2019 polls, and it lost all 25 seats to the BJP. Two weeks after the Lok Sabha election results, Pilot-Gehlot discord became public for the first time when both blamed each other for the defeat.
Since then there have been several instances which indicated that all is not well within the Congress. However, what led to the recent revolt by Pilot was a notice served to him and Gehlot by the Special Operation Group (SOG) of Rajasthan police to record their statements in an alleged case of bribing of MLAs to topple the Congress government in the state.
Here are other instances that led to the recent tussle between the two leaders:
Congress's Loss in Lok Sabha Polls
In June 2019, weeks after the Lok Sabha election results were declared and the Congress lost all 25 seats in Rajasthan, including the Jodhpur seat where Gehlot's son Vaibhav Gehlot made his political debut, the rift between Pilot and Gehlot came out in the public. After the loss, Gehlot said that Pilot, the then PCC chief, should take responsibility for the party’s defeat. Reacting to the CM’s remarks, Pilot said had the CM campaigned for all MPs instead of spending too much time in Jodhpur alone, the results could have been different, and the Congress could have won many seats.
Attack on Gehlot Over Law and Order Situation
In September 2019, Pilot criticised the Congress government for deteriorating law and order situation in the state. His veiled attack was on the Chief Minister, who also holds the home portfolio. Referring to the jailbreak in Alwar or any disturbance in the name of communalism, Pilot said that the law and order was an important part of governance and shortcomings should be removed to improve the situation.
Decision on Mayor's Polls
In October 2019, Rajasthan Cabinet decided to hold indirect election for the post of mayor and chairperson in corporations and municipalities in the state. The decision escalated the rift between the party’s old guard and the new with Pilot questioning his own government’s decision. Terming it “undemocratic”, the former deputy CM said the decision would lead to “back-door entry” of people. He also claimed he wasn’t consulted. Under fire from its own party, the government rolled back the decision.
Infant Deaths in Kota
Over 100 infants died at the JK Lon Hospital in Rajasthan’s Kota district within a month in January 2019. Gehlot said the number of deaths was good news given over 1,100 had died at the same hospital in 2016 when the BJP was in power. Two days after the CM’s remark, Pilot said his government's response to the infant deaths could have been more sensitive. Pilot, after visiting the hospital, slammed his own government and stressed that accountability for the entire episode should be fixed.
Rajya Sabha Polls 2020
In June 2020, ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections, Gehlot and other Congress leaders, including Rajasthan government's chief whip Mahesh Joshi, alleged that the BJP was trying to poach their MLAs, following which Joshi submitted a written complaint to the Rajasthan police. Soon after, the Congress MLAs were shifted to a resort for one week. The Congress won two seats and the BJP one in the Rajya Sabha polls. Interestingly, after winning two seats, Gehlot convinced the party high command that he had saved his government from being toppled by the BJP.
However, Pilot told media that he had maintained the Congress will win two seats as Independents and the MLAs of supporting parties voted as per expectations. Without taking the names of Joshi and Gehlot, Pilot said that whatever allegations were made by anyone were baseless.
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