A few days after Sachin Pilot embarrassed the Congress by taking a dig at Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, another party functionary, Ajay Maken has sent signals about his future intentions by declaring that he was resigning as the general secretary in-charge of the state.
Maken has claimed that he was taking this step because the Congress Legislature Party had not been convened and no disciplinary action has been taken against the three MLAs who had been served show cause notice for their revolt in September.
There are several dimensions to Maken’s action since the former Union Minister is known for not doing anything without a purpose and most of his posturing is done after obtaining a clearance from some quarter or the other.
In this particular instance, his apparent grouse is that Shanti Lal Dhariwal, Mahesh Joshi and Dharmendra Rathore, the three MLAs had been made state coordinators by Gehlot for the Bharat Jodo Yatra which enters Rajasthan in the first week of December. It effectively means that Gehlot has played his cards by ensuring that the entire coordination for the Rajasthan leg would have to be done by his trusted trio and every senior leader would have to deal with them.
The obvious interpretation is that the Congress central leadership has decided to overlook the disciplinary charges against them and is endorsing status quo; Gehlot stays as the Chief Minister and the attempts to replace him have been put on hold, at least for the time being.
It is well known that Sachin Pilot has not been missing any opportunity to put forward his claim for the Chief Minister’s position, which it appears is something which shall not easily come to him with Gehlot being in total command of the situation with majority of MLAs backing him to the hilt.
There are reports that Pilot has also not been very happy with Maken either and has expressed his reservations about him in private conversations. Maken’s support for Pilot was not because he endorses his younger colleague but because he has never been comfortable in dealing with Gehlot, who is not only senior but a far more seasoned politician than he is.
Maken’s public proclamation of his resignation as the state in-charge has not gone down well with many of his party associates, who have not only questioned the timing but also his intentions regarding this move. Many of his detractors are also claiming that he may be headed towards the saffron party on the eve of the Delhi Municipal Corporation elections, something which sounds far-fetched, given the Maken family’s long association with the Congress.
However, those who believe that he could do something dramatic are of the view that the BJP does not have a Punjabi face and as things stand today, there could be no better Punjabi face than Maken in the city. It is another thing that he has not been able to win the last few elections he has contested and the question would remain why the BJP, which has astute and perceptive leaders like Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, would want to put their bets on a loser. But politics remains a game of possibilities.
Another question which is being asked is, what has Maken resigned from? After the election of the new Congress president, even the Working Committee was dissolved and was replaced by a Steering Committee. Similarly, all office bearers ceased to be in their positions and they were asked to continue only as a working arrangement. The situation is similar to when a Chief Minister resigns but is asked to continue till the new person is elected and he functions merely in the caretaker capacity.
Therefore, Maken’s action is for optics and posturing and certainly does not seem to be in the overall interests of the Congress. His announcement is also taking the attention away from the Bharat Jodo Yatra, which is receiving a good response everywhere it has been. Secondly, Gehlot is overseeing the Congress campaign in Gujarat and any attack on him should be construed as anti-party activity.
Maken, like Gehlot, is a product of student politics and should therefore follow the basic rudiments of organizational behaviour. He was first elected to the Delhi Assembly in 1993, when he defeated BJP veteran Manohar Lal Kumar from Rajouri Garden. After Sheila Dikshit became the Chief Minister, he became extremely close to her and virtually acted as her trouble shooter before parting ways.
He made his Parliament debut in 2004, when he defeated former Union Minister Jagmohan from the New Delhi seat with a convincing margin. He was re-elected from there in 2009 and served as a minister in the Manmohan Singh government.
The then Congress president Sonia Gandhi had rated Maken very high. Once sharing her thoughts regarding younger leaders, she had told this columnist that Maken and Bharat Solanki were a cut above others and would be accommodated in the government or party. Shortly after that he was made a minister and Solanki was given an organization position in Gujarat.
However, Maken has been inconsistent after that. He has acquired a reputation of using people and not helping anyone, which is something which can be very damaging for a politician. He has been on the losing side since the past few years and his actions as the Rajasthan in-charge did not go down well with most of the MLAs. He should exercise greater caution while making public pronouncements. Between us.