Gehlot’s Cheat Sheet
While one is not quite sure what transpired between Sonia Gandhi and Ashok Gehlot, one can get a glimpse of what the veteran Congress leader would have told her because an enterprising photographer (J. Suresh) managed to click a picture of the points he had scribbled on a sheet of paper. (The fact that these bullet points were neatly written and also accessible to a nimble photographer is another story). However, in the note—which has since gone viral on social media—Gehlot writes that: Whatever happened was wrong and has hurt him too. but he also goes on to blame Sachin Pilot (referred to as SP) for trying to topple the government and that Pilot will leave the party for 102 MLAs are with him (Gehlot) versus only 18 with Pilot. Gehlot also scribbled that MLAs usually desert you when they realise you are on your way out, but his men stood by him. One can assume that this was the case he made before Sonia. However, Sonia had conveyed her hurt and anguish about the events in Rajasthan to whoever met her during this crucial period, be it Kharge, Ambika Soni or Kamal Nath. Will Gehlot be able to regain the lost trust? The answer to that lies in his home state Rajasthan.
From 10 Janpath to 10 Rajaji Marg
Mallikarjun Kharge, who will soon be the next Congress President, resides at 10 Rajaji Marg. Will there be a huge sea change in the party post his elevation, or will the crowds still throng outside 10 Janpath? Probably the latter, for the real power will still reside with the Gandhi family. But Kharge will be the conduit and the bridge to the High Command. This is a role he is good at, for he is a seasoned politician and not one known to peddle in internal party politics. Although he lacks Ahmed Patel’s network both within the party and with allies, he can play the role of an elder statesman for the party workers. And he is accessible. The fact that he is also a Dalit and from Karnataka, a state that’s going to the polls soon, are useful political accessories, the real asset is his own nature and the calm he will bring to the table. Don’t forget even Charanjit Singh Channi was a Dalit but he could not keep the flock together. Even before he takes office, Kharge has shown that he can be a unifier—look at the number of G-23 leaders who have signed his nomination form. Yes, Kharge will not be an agent of change, like perhaps Shashi Tharoor, or even Digvijaya Singh. But he will ensure in maintaining the status quo till the Gandhis get their act together. In other words, while Rahul does his Bharat Jodo, Kharge will do a Congress Jodo.
Digvijaya’s Curious Nomination Drama
In the midst of the Congress Presidential drama we had a curious case of Digvijaya Singh throwing his hat in the ring but his candidature was a one-day affair, and did not eventually make it to the ballot papers. Was he a serious contender? Why did he then withdraw? According to sources, Digvijaya did clear his candidature with both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, so he was never a rebel candidate. This was in the middle of Ashok Gehlot’s on again-off again drama and clearly Digvijaya felt that before the nominations closed there should be one “loyalist” in the fray to take on Shashi Tharoor or any candidate from the G-23. But Digvijaya was not the family’s first choice as Plan B. The minute Gehlot demurred; they propped up Mallikarjun Kharge; and it was clear that all the establishment votes would go to him. Being a loyalist and a realist, Digvijaya withdrew. The key question here is: has Divijaya lost out with his nomination bid, or has he effectively put his hat in the ring for another job that has opened up with Kharge’s candidature, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha? There are many contenders for this—P. Chidambaram, K.C. Venugopal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, to name a few. The first two are from southern states and the party cannot have all its key office bearers from the South. And Digvijaya does know how to stay relevant in the media.