The internal bickering between Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Deputy CM Sachin Pilot has plunged the state into a political crisis as Pilot is in no mood to relent after being systematically sidelined by Gehlot. While the Pilot camp claims that the Gehlot government is in minority and also claims to have the support of 25 MLAs, Gehlot seems to be standing strong and not bowing down. Gehlot claims to have the backing of 106 MLAs and is parading them to a luxury resort as he plans to push Pilot into a corner and force the Congress high command to take away his posts of Deputy CM and state Congress Chief. However, Pilot is not the first victim of Gehlot’s cunning politics. Since the 90s, Gehlot has destroyed the political careers of every Congress bigwig who has stood between him and the Chief Minister’s chair.
Credit where due, Gehlot has yet again proved to be the master of deception as Pilot seems to have walked right into the trap laid by the Rajasthan CM. While this political game of chess can still turn, Gehlot has earned a doctorate in destroying the careers of his challengers.
During the 90s, Rajasthan Congress was dominated by veterans like Haridev Joshi, Parasaram Maderna and Shivcharan Mathur. Under the stewardship of Maderna, who used to be the chief of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee, the party lost the 1990 and 1993 Assembly elections. Gehlot succeeded Maderna and on the back of Jat reservation movement, the INC won handsomely in the 1998 elections as it secured 153 seats out of 200 seats.
When the moment arrived to elect the head of Congress Legislative Party, Maderna was the runaway favourite as he belonged to the Jat community. Next in line was Natwar Singh due to his proximity to the Gandhi family. The INC dispatched Madhav Rao Scindia, Gulab Nabi Azad, Mohsina Kidwai and Balram Jakhar who then sought the opinion of the MLAs on who should become the next Chief Minister.
This move propelled Gehlot to the Rajasthan CM post and forced Maderna to accept the post of Assembly Speaker as he gave up his claim to the Chief Minister’s chair.
After successfully ousting the Vasundhara Raje Scindia government in 2008, the then Leader of Opposition, CP Joshi naturally expected to be crowned as the CM as the party quite literally rode on Joshi’s back. However, CP Joshi lost his election by just a single vote and hence wasn’t considered to be in the fray for the Chief Minister’s post. Mahipal Maderna, son Parasaram Maderna then laid his claim on the top post but ultimately Gehlot prevailed.
Political Pundits till date claim that Gehlot played a key role in ensuring CP Joshi’s defeat in the polls. While Gehlot became the CM, CP Joshi just like Pilot, continued to be the President of the state Congress. The duo had multiple fallouts and when CP Joshi protested, Gehlot destroyed Joshi’s political career. Joshi got caught in a case of corruption in the Rajasthan Cricket Association and subsequently surrendered himself. CP Joshi then decided to leave Rajasthan politics for good as he was made a minister in the then UPA government.
After CP Joshi, it was the turn of Mahipal Maderna as he was proving to be a thorn in Gehlot’s political career. Maderna was trapped in the Bhanwari Devi scandal and was subsequently sent to jail with his political career destroyed for good.
The first differences between Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot emerged during the ticket distribution in 2018 where Gehlot insisted that his loyalists get the major chunk of tickets. Pilot then backed by Rahul Gandhi, ultimately prevailed over Gehlot during the ticket distribution. Gehlot then fielded his loyalists as independents and when Congress fell short of just one seat from a full majority, Gehlot showed his ‘strength’ by bringing the independent MLAs to the Congress’ fold which paved the way for CM Gehlot.