With 15 months to go for the Assembly elections, the infighting in the Congress is at its peak in Rajasthan. As per reports, the Gandhi family has decided to elevate Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot as the Congress president in the upcoming election to elect the party chief. But if the Congress maintains the sycophancy of Rahul Gandhi’s “coterie” and does not allow this democratic process to complete, then the party will face havoc in Rajasthan. Keeping its flock together will be the biggest challenge.
Gehlot Is A Gandhi Family Trump Card
There should not be any doubt that if Gehlot stands in this election, he will be the choice of the Gandhi family. He is not only close to Sonia Gandhi but has a great equation with Rahul Gandhi as well. So, he will be the best bet for the Gandhi family.
The G-23 will also not be able to raise many questions on his elevation. Also, the party will be able to quash the Opposition charge of the Congress being a Gandhi family fiefdom. More importantly, this decision will bring down the power tussle between former Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and Gehlot.
Sachin Pilot And Ashok Gehlot Tussle
Gehlot is a grassroots politician and has done a remarkable job as a strategist for the party. He is also a three-time chief minister of Rajasthan. Gehlot was never the choice of the local leadership as the CM in 1998, 2008 and 2018. But he became the CM, thanks to his closeness with the Gandhi family. Similarly, political analysts and a section of Congress leaders in Rajasthan believe that the party never became successful electorally under his leadership. The Congress fought the 2003 and 2013 elections under Gehlot’s leadership, and lost.
Since 2018, Rajasthan politics has been witnessing several changes. It is widely accepted that the Congress became successful in the 2018 elections due to the leadership of Sachin Pilot. However, the leadership of Pilot and his decision to not give the tickets to many grassroots Congressmen became an issue for the party. Many disenchanted leaders fought the 2018 elections and won independently. The current Congress government is dependent on 10 such independent MLAs. It is understood that these MLAs have extended support to the Congress because of CM Gehlot, and not Sachin Pilot.
These developments suggest that just elevating Gehlot without a strategy in mind will not strengthen the party in Rajasthan. Pilot is not the only front-runner for the CM post in the state. Former Union minister and Rajasthan Speaker CP Joshi is also a frontrunner and his name is doing the rounds in the political circles of Rajasthan. Significantly in 2008, Joshi was supposed to be the chief minister but lost his seat, thus paving the way for Gehlot. However, it is widely believed that Joshi and Gehlot have good equations.
Congress Has Many Issues In Rajasthan
There are many troubles for Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan. In the recently held student body elections, the NSUI which has all the Gehlot confidants lost miserably. However, independent candidates like Nirmal Chaudhary, known to be close to Sachin Pilot, won the Rajasthan University Students Union election and became the president.
Rajasthan has been facing growing law and order situations under Gehlot. Two weeks ago, a Dalit boy was allegedly killed by upper caste people. Tailor Kanhaiya Lal was brutally butchered by two Muslim men in Udaipur for supporting Nupur Sharma. Rajasthan also witnessed several incidents of communal violence in Alwar, Karauli and Jodhpur. A section of the Congress leaders in the state believes that Ashok Gehlot has failed to take control of the growing law and order conflicts in the state. Many MLAs of the party have come out in public and slammed Gehlot for the bureaucratisation of the party.
Sycophancy Is The Real Villain
The grand old party has several internal problems, but one of the most significant issues has been the presence of sycophantic tendencies among a section of its leadership. Each and every Congress worker and leader understands that the party is declining across the country because of the failed leadership of Rahul Gandhi. Yet, they mostly remain blind to this reality. Gehlot himself is one such leader. He has been claiming that Rahul Gandhi should take over as the Congress president. This is because of his sycophancy and also he does not want to lose the chair of the Chief Minister.
If Gehlot becomes the Congress president and Sachin Pilot becomes the chief minister of Rajasthan, then the latter will have just one year to revive the party in the state. The situation in Rajasthan is not easy and it will not be resolved overnight. The coterie of Rahul Gandhi has ignored conflict resolution in Chhattisgarh as well. The party has little hope in that state too. The blind loyalty is not allowing the party to grow. From Punjab and Gujarat to Ghulam Nabi Azad and Jitin Prasada, the Congress has lost many leaders due to sycophancy.
Rajasthan is a clear example that the main rival of the Congress today is not the BJP, but the Congress itself. The Congress is the biggest enemy of the grand old party. Rajasthan is an important state for the Congress and if the sycophancy prevails over the strategy of conflict resolution, then the party may see the repeat of Punjab.
The author is an independent journalist and columnist based in Kolkata and a former policy research fellow at the Delhi Assembly Research Centre. He tweets as @sayantan_gh. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
Read all the Latest Opinion News and Breaking News here