The current political crisis in Rajasthan was a disaster which was bound to happen someday, and the Congress should have anticipated the same, more so after the exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia, which led to the fall of Kamalnath’s government in Madhya Pradesh. It would not take an expert analysis of the Congress party to realise that post the exit of Jyotiraditya Scindia from the party, Sachin Pilot would be the next to take off. Therefore, Ashok Gehlot, who is currently the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, (though one cannot say with certainty as to how long he will continue to remain in that position) has put up better defences in place than Kamalnath did, and is, therefore, putting up a brave survival fight.
Nonetheless, Sachin Pilot has been made to feel inferior within the party, not to mention within the government of Rajasthan, where he was treated as an outcast and not given the liberty to carry out his duties as the Deputy Chief Minister. Congress gained power in Rajasthan solely banking on the goodwill which Sachin Pilot commanded in the state. Yet, the CM post was handed to Ashok Gehlot, citing his seniority. Still, Pilot continued to resist from within.
With Rahul Gandhi quitting the post of Congress President post the 2019 election debacle, it became more than clear for leaders like Scindia and Pilot that they had returned to the old raj of the Congress, where the ‘elder’ generation reigned supreme. As such, the epitaph of their political growth, along with that of other young and dynamic leaders, was written last year itself. Therefore, when Ashok Gehlot says that he and Pilot have not spoken for close to a year now, and are not in talking terms, the above assertion makes all the more sense.
Coming to the current turmoil in Rajasthan now. It is abundantly clear that Ashok Gehlot is doing all that he can to save his government. Learning from the mistakes of Kamalnath, Ashok Gehlot had begun his game of side-lining Sachin Pilot quite early on, for it was known that the man would pose a formidable challenge to his authority in the near future. Attempts to diminish Pilot may not have had the desired results, however, they did go a long way in hampering Pilot’s exit on similar lines to that of Scindia’s, which led to a government collapse in Madhya Pradesh.
What is now being seen in the state of Rajasthan, however, is a full-blown clan war, where the camps of Gehlot and Pilot are fighting for supremacy. Cunningly enough, Gehlot has not tried to salvage the crisis by preventing the exit of Pilot. Instead, he is focussing on disintegrating Pilot’s camp, in order to minimize the damage caused to his own throne. In a way, Gehlot is aiming to get rid of Sachin Pilot and his camp, while also ensuring that his own government does not fall.
In the prevailing times of COVID-19, Ashok Gehlot, on the pretext of lockdown and restrictions, centralised all authority unto himself, and Sachin Pilot was not able to get to the ground and mobilise sufficient support in his favour, the effects of which are now showing results. Moreover, a witch-hunt is being carried out against Pilot and his remaining supporters, since the brute force of the state machinery still lies in the hands of Gehlot.
As a consequence, disqualification notices were sent out to Pilot and his supporters from the Rajasthan State Assembly. This, even as show cause notices have also been served to the rebels by the Congress party. Amidst such arm-twisting tactics, an alleged audiotape has also been leaked (which the BJP has called fabricated) according to which the Congress claims that the BJP is involved in horse-trading, and is working to dislodge the Ashok Gehlot government in the state. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Union Minister, has said that he is ready to face a probe, and has confidently claimed that whatever audio tapes the Congress claims to be in possession of, are false and fabricated.
Sachin Pilot, however, is giving Gehlot a run for his money, and is putting a tough fight while also braving attempts of intimidating him and his supporters. In a smart move, Pilot challenged the disqualification notices sent to him and his camp in the Rajasthan High Court, and is being represented by no less than Harish Salve and Mukul Rohtagi themselves. Further, he has kept his cards very close to his chest, and nobody really knows what will be Pilot’s next move.