The leadership issue in Rajasthan Congress is far from over as supporters of Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot are putting pressure on the party high command for anointing their respective leaders as the Chief Ministerial face ahead of the Assembly polls in the state due towards the yearend. Sources in the Congress said that the office of Rahul Gandhi is inundated with requests from the supporters of Gehlot and Pilot, respectively, who want to meet the party president and explain how anointing their respective leaders would help the Congress’ prospects in the upcoming elections.
Gehlot’s supporters argue that the two-time CM of Rajasthan has far more credibility among the voters of the state than Pilot, whom they dubbed as a “Delhi politician”. Pilot has been the president of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee for the last four years.
Supporters of Gehlot got a shot in the arm after the latter was made a member of the organising, political and the drafting committee for the forthcoming Congress plenary scheduled for 16-18 March. The committee was constituted by Rahul Gandhi earlier this week; Sachin Pilot’s name is missing from it.
“Pilot does not have the mass contact capability that Gehlot has. Gehlot is a much more local politician than Pilot is and we need someone with whom the voters of Rajasthan will identify with,” a Jaipur-based party functionary said.
However, supporters of Pilot claim that it is he alone who has been fighting the Vasundhara Raje government on the ground for the past four years despite not getting any support from senior leaders like Gehlot and C.P. Joshi.
“After the demoralising loss in the 2013 Assembly polls, Pilot stayed back in Rajasthan and worked among the party workers instead of sitting in New Delhi and increasing his proximity with the party leadership. It was because of his effort that we have won two Lok Sabha and one Assembly bypolls recently. Some of our party leaders are, however, resorting to rumour mongering that Pilot did not contest from the Ajmer Lok Sabha seat because he was afraid of losing. Gehlot had had his stint in Rajasthan and now he should focus on strengthening the Congress at the national level. In the state, we need someone who is young and has the fire to take on the aggressive Vasundhara Raje,” a Congress MLA said.
Party sources said that the Congress’ age old rule of not announcing a CM face would prove counter-productive in the state. “Whenever we feel that announcing a CM face will help us, we have been doing it. We did it in Punjab and we are most likely to do it in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan,” a senior party functionary, who is working in Rajasthan, said.