After a leadership change in Punjab, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's two meetings with Rajasthan leader Sachin Pilot within a week has indicated high command's focus to track down the feud between the two factions in the desert state. But the situation in Punjab was different than in Rajasthan, where the present chief minister Ashok Gehlot still enjoys the support of the majority of MLAs.
Rajasthan revenue minister and senior Congress leader and Harish Choudhary, who was a central observer during the recent leadership change in Punjab, said on Monday that the situation in Rajasthan and Punjab are different and state Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has the support of a majority of MLAs.
"There is a difference between Rajasthan and Punjab and the situation cannot be correlated. In Rajasthan, over 100 MLAs are with Ashok Gehlot ji", Choudhary told reporters. Speaking about the delay in the cabinet expansion in Rajasthan, Choudhary said, "The chief minister's health was not fine so he couldn't go to Delhi as per the schedule", he added.
When asked if there will be a change in guard in Rajasthan on the lines of Punjab, Choudhary added, "The Congress party gave many opportunities to Captain Amarinder Singh ji. The MLAs of Punjab wanted a leadership change so that party high command gave them the permission and it happened democratically". Choudhary was appointed as a central observer for the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting and had accompanied Congress leaders such as Harish Rawat and Ajay Maken to the state.
Pilot, who was removed as deputy chief minister and state Congress chief after the rebellion in July 2020, is also demanding inclusion of his people in various boards, corporations and other political positions. As per the sources, in the two meetings with Gandhi's, the Pilot had discussed the pending cabinet expansion in Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot government and induction of MLAs from his camp. The meetings have once again made the loyalist MLAs of Sachin Pilot group hopeful of high command fulfilling the promises made to them when they were wooed back to the party following his rebellion last year. "We have been waiting for over a year. We are hopeful that high command will keep our demands on priority and will intervene", an MLA from Pilot's camp told Outlook.
But unlike Punjab, in Rajasthan the things seem to go on a slower pace and the stalemate in the party's state unit will continue for some time. "Congress leader Ajay Maken has been meeting Ashok Gehlot regularly over the issue of cabinet expansion but the former seems not to be convinced by the suggestions hence there is a dillydallying in the appointments. Besides accommodating the MLAs from the Pilot group in the expansion, the CM is also considering giving berths to independent and six former BSP MLAs. The appointments may take place after Diwali festival", a senior Congress leader close to Ashok Gehlot told Outlook.
However, the party has officially maintained that the cabinet expansion has been delayed due to the ill-health of Gehlot 70) who also underwent an angioplasty procedure in Jaipur, last month.
Last month Congress in charge of Rajasthan, Ajay Maken held one-on-one consultations with Congress MLAs to address their grievances but it seems that there is more to it. The MLAs from the two factions supporting the chief minister Ashok Gehlot and former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot respectively interacted with Maken, who stressed putting a full stop to the factionalism in the party’s state unit.
The Rajasthan Cabinet currently has nine vacancies but it is turning out to be a tight rope walk for the party leadership. At present, there are 21 members in the council of ministers, including the chief minister. Rajasthan can have a maximum of 30 ministers.
On July 14, 2020, Sachin Pilot was removed as the deputy chief minister of Rajasthan and from his position as the state unit chief, party spokesperson, and two of his loyalist cabinet ministers Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena were sacked from their posts in the state government. Pilot, who was the longest-serving president of the party unit in the state, was sacked by the party after he skipped the second round of meetings convened by Congress to discuss the political crisis in the state. The party immediately appointed primary education minister Govind Singh Dotasara as the new Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president.
A month-long tussle between Gehlot and Pilot may have officially ended on the eve of Independence Day on August 2020 when inside the Assembly the former displayed his strength by winning the confidence motion via voice vote, but confusion over the entire episode percolates down across the organisational structure of Congress in Rajasthan.