Contenders to CM post are too many and the party does not want to aggravate factionalism by declaring a CM face.
The senior leadership in Congress has decided to go into the Rajasthan Assembly elections without announcing its chief ministerial candidate, keeping in mind the various factions that the state unit of the Congress is struggling to keep together. Keeping in line with its strategy adopted in Madhya Pradesh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has decided not to announce a chief ministerial candidate in Rajasthan as well.
Avinash Pande, All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, told The Sunday Guardian, “It is not obligatory to announce a CM face, but is a practice that relies on several factors. In some states like Punjab, we have announced the candidate and it has worked in our favour. This time in Rajasthan, we have decided against it.”
The decision to go into elections without a CM face is being seen as a tactic to ensure that the regional leaders stay on the same page to contest elections without prioritising their personal goals. It shows that Rahul Gandhi has decided to play it safe.
Despite the state having multiple popular leaders, no one can be the chief ministerial candidate because the contenders are too many and the party does not want to promote factionalism.
A senior leader said, “By not announcing a CM candidate, Rahul Gandhi is allowing everybody to perform their best in the elections, while leaving the final decision to the performance in the elections.”
Commenting on the factionalism, Pande said, “This whole narrative that Congress is suffering from internal feuds has been created by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). I can assure you that all senior functionaries in the state are working in co-ordination with each other.”
Due to go to the polls in November this year, Rajasthan, currently under the leadership of the BJP’s Vasundhara Raje, is considered to be a bi-polar state where power shifts between the Congress and BJP from term to term, with no regional party having any influence on voters.
Sachin Pilot, president of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee, Ashok Gehlot, former Chief Minister, and C.P. Joshi are the three main contenders for the CM’s post. While Pilot is currently heading the state unit of the Congress, Gehlot’s appointment as AICC general secretary (organisation) at the headquarters in New Delhi was largely seen as a move to pave the way for younger leaders in the state to take the dais.
To emphasise its point that the Congress is united, the party has organised press conferences and state level meetings where it has ensured that all key figures in the state are visible to the public in full strength. Earlier this week, at the 170th edition of “Mera Booth Mera Gaurav” (MBMG) conducted in the Dudu Assembly constituency, Gehlot and Pilot were seen attacking the Raje government for “misusing government machinery and exchequer” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally held in Jaipur on Saturday. MBMG is being rigorously implemented by the Congress to mobilise support at the booth level. Under the MBMG programme, which has entered its second phase, Congress will be organising “Baithaks” through which it intends to target 48,000 booths in the state. The MBMG’s outreach meetings at the gram sabha level are called “Panchayats” through which Congress reached out to villages across the state.
Pande said, “The MBMG public gatherings have allowed Congress to strengthen its base among the people and given us an opportunity to find fresh talent at the grassroots. Our Baithaks and Panchayats have been successful in terms of people voicing their issues that have been neglected by the government.”
Bringing victory to Rajasthan will be Pande’s first assignment in the capacity of an AICC general secretary. He has previously worked as an AICC secretary in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat elections, but as a state in-charge at the general secretary level, this will be his first assignment. Pande is known to be an acolyte of Rahul Gandhi and in the restructuring of the AICC, found favour with the party president, thus making it to a key position in May. Hailing from Maharashtra, Pande’s appointment as in-charge of Rajasthan was meant to bridge the gap between the coteries of various state leaders in order to fight the election in a unified manner. Earlier in February, the Congress had scored a perfect three-out-of-three score in the Rajasthan bypolls. The party won the Alwar and Ajmer Parliamentary seats and the Mandalgarh Assembly segment, all held by the BJP and linked to Rahul Gandhi’s top lieutenants in Rajasthan—Pilot, C.P. Joshi and Jitendra Singh Bhanwar. Pande said, “We have full confidence that we will be able to replicate our bypoll victory at the state level in November.”