Even as the Kota tragedy has aggravated further with the death toll rising to 107 infants in the JK Lon government hospital in Rajasthan’s Kota, the state seems all set for a major political showdown. The infants admitted in JK Lon Hospital of Kota were suffering from HIE or Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy [HIE], which is a serious condition where the brain ceases to function due to lack of proper oxygen supply to the brain, resulting in death. While the heart-wrenching tragedy has sent shockwaves across the country, it has also led to major political repercussions.
The Congress which already faces a volatile power equation is set to witness yet another tussle between Ashok Gehlot, Rajasthan CM and Sachin Pilot, Rajasthan Congress chief and Deputy CM.
In what can be seen as an attempt to embarrass the Chief Minister, Pilot has said, “I think our response to this (Kota infants’ deaths) could have been more compassionate and sensitive. After being in power for 13 months I think it serves no purpose to blame the previous government’s misdeeds. Accountability should be fixed.” He added, “Itne sare bacchon ki maut hui hai. Jimmedari tay karni hogi. Vasundra ji ne kuch galat kiya to janta ne unhain hara diya. Magar ab toh hamari jimmedari banti hai (So many children have died. We have to fix responsibility. People voted out Vasundhra Raje for her wrongs. But now it’s our responsibility).”
What Pilot has said is in sharp contrast to the nonchalant reaction that Gehlot has given to the Kota tragedy. Gehlot had insensitively dismissed the tragedy and infant deaths as a non-issue. He had said, “This is not something new, these things keep happening in the state.” He had even claimed that deaths had also taken place in BJP rule but the number has declined in the Congress regime.
Pilot, however, has come out looking for sensitive and humane. Contradicting Gehlot, he has said, “Shouldn’t we be fixing responsibility for deaths of so many children? If infants are dying regularly in this manner, then it isn’t sufficient for the government to say more deaths took place in the past.” When asked about Gehlot’s statement of reduction in the number of deaths, Pilot said, “Whatever I am saying, I am saying with full responsibility.”
Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot on #KotaChildDeaths: I think our response to this could have been more compassionate and sensitive. After being in power for 13 months I think it serves no purpose to blame the previous Govt's misdeeds. Accountability should be fixed. pic.twitter.com/kpD9uxMfUy
— ANI (@ANI) January 4, 2020
The Congress and the Ashok Gehlot government have been already drawing a lot of fire over the Kota tragedy and the insensitive character of the Congress regime. The BJP has already hit out at the Rajasthan CM, demanding his resignation. Even BSP supremo Mayawati has asked for the resignation of Ashok Gehlot, the Chief Minister of the state.
At a time when he was found to face severe criticism over the shocking tragedy, Gehlot only created an even more difficult situation for himself with his insensitive remarks. Pilot seems to be trying to latch on this opportunity. His remarks make him look rather sensitive towards the Kota tragedy compared to the Chief Minister, something that could spell even greater trouble for Gehlot who has become quite unpopular after the Kota tragedy.
Pilot’s remarks are in line with the turf wars between the two leaders in the recent past. In the tussle between Gehlot and Pilot, the Congress had stuck with the former in the run-up to the 2018 Rajasthan polls. After that, the two sides have been locked in a tussle that has come to the fore time and again. First, the embarrassing defeat of the Congress in Rajasthan during the Lok Sabha polls and now the Kota tragedy have put Ashok Gehlot in a very tight spot. Now, with his remarks that are in sharp contrast with the stand taken by Gehlot, Pilot seems to be eyeing the CM chair in the state. He knows that Gehlot has landed in a soup, and therefore Pilot is trying to put that much more pressure in order to topple, and replace him.