Ahead of the polling in Rajasthan, there seems to be a change in the strategy of the Congress party. In a tussle between former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Congress State President Sachin Pilot, the party now appears to be siding with the former. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has also now started mentioning Ashok Gehlot’s name in his speeches.
In the last few days, there is a torrent of reports in the media suggesting that Sachin Pilot will lose the election from the Tonk constituency. There are also reports highlighting that Sachin Pilot does not belong to Rajasthan but is from Ghaziabad. On the other hand, Ashok Gehlot is being touted as the son of the soil. No one knows whether these reports are sponsored by the Congress party in the media or an independent venture of experienced political journalists. But one thing is clear that Congress seeks to project Ashok Gehlot as its CM face in case the party comes to power in Rajasthan.
Now, the moot question is regarding the sudden change in the strategy of the Congress party just before the run-up to the final leg of the election. One probable reason could be Ashok Gehlot arm-twisting the Congress leadership as was done in the case of Punjab Assembly Elections.
In Rajasthan, the Congress is most optimistic about its victory. Talks of BJP losing the state elections in Rajasthan have been doing the rounds for a long time with BJP’s position being considered the weakest in the run-up to 2019. Most of the time in Rajasthan, the political talk has revolved around the CM face of the Congress Party, whether it will be Ashok Gehlot or Sachin Pilot. As of now, in the battle of ‘Experience versus Youth’, the party seems to prefer experience because for the Congress it is almost impossible to win Rajasthan by sidelining Gehlot.
Ashok Gehlot belongs to the old guard of the party and is an adherent of the Sonia school of loyalty. Being aware of every nook and corner of the state, he has a tremendous experience in Rajasthan politics. He had single-handedly reduced Congress to a one-man party with his autocratic style of functioning. Any attempt on the part of Congress to project a young face as the CM may have its own repercussions. It may as harsh as sulking Gehlot which could exacerbate the infighting in Congress.
Just one year back, Ashok Gehlot was managing the election campaign for Congress in Gujarat. Under his tutelage, a significant improvement was noticed in Congress’ performance. The Congress ecosystem dubbed it a moral victory for the party and Gandhi scion. However, moral right to moral victory of the Congress in Gujarat goes to Ashok Gehlot (who was the campaign in charge).
If rumors are to be believed, Rahul Gandhi appointed Ashok Gehlot as Congress’ campaign head in the Gujarat elections just to pave way for his friend Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan. But the Congress’ success in Gujarat elections boosted Gehlot’s confidence and he returned to Rajasthan to claim what he considers rightly belongs to him.
Ashok Gehlot’s act of not following diktats of the Congress High Command also shows that whenever a strong regional leader emerges, the Congress party feels apprehensive about him/her. The emergence of Captain Amarinder Singh and para-dropping Navjot Sidhu in Punjab is another example of Congress’ way of politics.