NEW DELHI: When Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot sensed that the Gandhis are adamant on placing Sachin Pilot, his bitter adversary, as the CM of the state, thus compelling him to contest the AICC president election, sources said, it is believed that Gehlot started to design his shadow play that would eventually pressure Gandhis to comply with his demands of refraining from giving Pilot the hot seat. However, instead, the entire power play by Gehlot gave the impression of “weak Gandhis having no say over their subordinates”. Political observers say the whole affair reduced the integrity of the high command.
The CLP meeting which was supposed to pass a one-line resolution authorising the Congress president to take a decision on the next CM, could not take place. A parallel meeting was set up unofficially. According to sources, the meeting had first around 45 MLAs gathered at Shanti Dhariwal’s place. In addition to that, other junior MLAs and first-timers were compelled to attend the meeting, as they claim they were afraid of consequences if they did not comply with senior leaders. Later, the number had swelled to around 65. There were more MLAs roped in to sign the resignation to put pressure on the high command. It is worthy to mention that party president Sonia Gandhi has a final say to decide over party affairs. But the MLAs displayed complete defiance of the party high command.
A party insider said, the MLAs were directed to visit the residence of Speaker of the legislative Assembly, C.P. Joshi, a Gehlot loyalist, after their protest at Dhariwal’s residence on Sunday. He had prepared a dinner feast for 100 people, indicating that the plan was made much earlier to miss the official meeting which was to be held at the CM’s residence, where Pilot was kept waiting. Political analysts and party leaders say, the series of events that took place on the direction of senior leaders was not possible without the cognizance of Gehlot. However, Gehlot later apologised to Sonia Gandhi conveying that he will not run for Congress president.
In Chhattisgarh, where the same formula of rotational chief minister between T.S. Singhdeo and Baghel was reportedly agreed to, like in Rajasthan between the Gehlot and Pilot, Congress leaders say, if Gehlot goes unpunished, it will have a spillover effect in Chhattisgarh, turning the state unit dysfunctional, as the internal groups led by powerful individual leaders (Singhdeo and Baghel) will continue working at odds with each other. It is believed that current CM Bupesh Baghel has consolidated his position in the state more like Gehlot, and would be unwilling to give up his position. A source close to T.S. Singhdeo said if Gehlot’s power in the party is not be kept in check, it will send a wrong signal across all states that the high command bent its knees in front of a CM. He said, “If this continues, the powerful regional satraps will take advantage of the high command’s weakness and leverage their standing more and more and further flout the party rules. The top executives in the party must take a decision and display the power it derives from the party constitution.” A section of Congress believes that if Gehlot is removed from the CM position, the crisis will be akin to damages borne in Punjab where CM captain Amarinder Singh was removed months before the date of elections. Others believe, a bigger Gehlot-Pilot conflict has already reared its ugly head, akin to what happened in Punjab between Siddu and Chani. Sadly, the high command was unable to resolve that also and eventually lost the elections. A senior political analyst said, “One thing is certain that now the prestige of Congress president Sonia Gandhi will be saved only if Sachin Pilot becomes the chief minister.” On the other hand, the BJP, over the years, has shown a complete control, when it has come to changing its CMs.