The Countdown Begins
So confident is the Congress of winning the state of Rajasthan that the Pradesh party office in Jaipur has put up a live countdown clock that measures the days, hours, minutes down to the seconds left for Vasundhara Raje’s ouster. But, while the party is confident that Vasundhara will go, it is not quite as sure as to who will replace her—state PCC chief Sachin Pilot or former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. The conventional view is that if the Congress gets a strong majority, then it will be Pilot, but if it scrapes through and needs the help of independents, then it will be Gehlot, because a lot of rebel Congress leaders who have been denied tickets and are contesting the elections, swear their allegiance to Gehlot more than to Pilot.
When asked who will be the CM face from the Congress, veteran party leader Ashok Gehlot (who considers himself a frontrunner) retorted that the party didn’t have just two, but a plethora of faces and reeled off the names of Sachin Pilot, C.P. Joshi, and even Raghu Sharma, the candidate who won from Ajmer during the bypolls recently. Yet, no one is ruling out his own name, least of all Gehlot himself. It is a well-known fact that had he not joined politics, he would have become a professional magician (his father was one and Gehlot picked up some tricks of the trade travelling with him). As he himself joked with the media recently when asked about his skills as a jadoogar: “Is this not jadoo (magic)? Maali community ka aadmi, jiska koi base nahin (I belong to the Maali community which doesn’t have much of a base in Rajasthan). Yet, I became the CM, Central minister and a three-term PCC chief; if this is not jadoo (magic), what is it?” Clearly, there are some tricks up his sleeve which he is not disclosing right now.
More Vajpayee than Modi
It is interesting to note that at the BJP office in Jaipur, there are more posters of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and even the odd one of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat than there are of the Modi-Shah duo. Outside the office at the entrance, there is a hoarding of the duo, along with the CM, but once you enter the premises, it is Vajpayee who dominates. The same is the case in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh as well where Vajpayee hoardings are more prominent than those of the Prime Minister himself. Is it back to the basics for the BJP in these states where the sitting CMs trace their lineage to Vajpayee’s BJP?
Defending Raga or not?
Delhi PCC chief Ajay Maken found himself in troubled waters in Jaipur recently. Addressing a press conference, he was asked why the Congress had nominated so many candidates who had parachuted into the party, more so when Rahul Gandhi had repeated in rally after rally that Congress would give preference to committed party members over parachuted candidates. While trying to defend the fact that Rahul had not broken his word, Maken said the decision on candidates was not Rahul’s alone, but one taken by the party’s CEC and Screening Committee. However, the media then wanted to know if Rahul’s words held so little value that his own party’s committees overlooked them when deciding candidates. Clearly, a no-win situation here!