NEW DELHI: The Congress high command will find it difficult and challenging to zero in on a new face who can replace Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot after he gets elected as party president. The situation will be more complicated if the high command chooses to implement its “Punjab model” in Rajasthan.
In Punjab, Navjot Singh Sidhu was appointed as Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief after Priyanka Gandhi Vadra lobbied for him. Rahul Gandhi too came under pressure to approve her decision. Later, Charanjit Singh Channi was given the CM post on the advice of Ambika Soni.
The experiment in Punjab cost Congress dearly, with the Aam Aadmi Party registering a massive win in the state, while the grand old party could not become even a credible opposition. Similarly, Congress’ position in Rajasthan may eventually get quite weak, though a split like Punjab will not happen there.
In Rajasthan, the BJP has already scored over Congress in terms of wooing the Jat community, which commands tremendous influence in Rajasthan’s politics. The BJP made Jat leader Jagdeep Dhankhar the Vice President of India. Another Jat leader, Satish Punia is the BJP’s state president, which is another message for the community. Jats, who were considered Congress voters, shifted allegiance after the BJP wooed them successfully. Congress may have to suffer electoral reverses if it neglects the Jats. Secondly, Meena and Rajput communities also dominate caste dynamics in elections. Congress will have to keep them happy as well.
Apart from caste equations, there are so many contenders to the CM post, because of which the task of choosing a face is challenging. Rajasthan PCC chief Govind Singh Dotasra, general secretary Jitendra Singh, Harish Choudhary and Raghu Sharma are being seen as frontrunners for the CM post. Assembly Speaker C.P. Joshi, B.D. Kalla and Shanti Dhariwal are already in the race. Sachin Pilot is also among these contenders.
Pilot is one of those leaders who continued to hold the post of PCC president continuously for over five years, but did not build a strong team. Sachin Pilot continued to pursue his politics in the state banking only on Delhi leaders. He emerged as a celebrity because of his close proximity with Rahul Gandhi and his good rapport with the media. But he could not become a mass leader. Distancing himself from senior leaders in the state, he worked to develop only his faction. Rahul Gandhi too did not set a good example. His politics triggered fights between veterans and youth leaders, leading to the weakening of the party. Several youth leaders close to Rahul Gandhi left the party. Sachin Pilot was also almost on the way out, but he had to remain in the party after the failure BJP’s “Operation Lotus”.
However, those who were working under “Operation Lotus” are still active. Sachin is trying to woo some legislators as he has future ambitions. But he can hardly win the support of the requisite number of MLAs. The question is whether Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra can go against Gehlot’s wish in terms of appointing a CM in Rajasthan. After all, it is the Gandhi family which has shown trust in Gehlot by choosing him as their nominee for Congress president post. If Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra appoint a CM of their choice, then the message will be obvious that the Congress president won’t be free to take decisions.