A father, who knows that his son is weak, will do everything in his capacity to ensure that there is no competition left against his son. Exactly same thing is happening in Rajasthan where Ashok Gehlot has cut Sachin Pilot to size in order to ensure his son Vaibhav Gehlot’s rise in the party.
Gehlot, a seasoned politician and a Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist, has for long wanted to cut Sachin Pilot’s stature in Rajasthan Congress but was waiting for the right moment. In 2018, after Pilot scripted the victory of Congress party in the state, Gehlot grabbed the CM chair using his proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi family.
But, he had to give the Deputy CM post to Pilot, who was already the PCC chief. Till Rahul Gandhi remained Congress president, Gehlot did nothing to change the status quo. But Sachin Pilot alleges that political machinations started once the Gandhi scion stepped down.
“Rahul Gandhi is no more the Congress president. After he quit last year, Gehlot ji and his friends in AICC ganged up against me. Since then it became a struggle for protecting my self-respect,” said Pilot in an interview with India Today magazine.
“He [Ashok Gehlot] did not allow me and my followers the dignity and space to work for Rajasthan’s development. The bureaucrats were asked not to follow my directives, files were not sent to me, Cabinet meetings and CLP meetings had not been held for months. What’s the worth of a position if that doesn’t allow me to fulfill the commitments I made to my people?” he added.
He outlined that he raised issues with party high-command many times, but no one listed to him. “I informed AICC in-charge of Rajasthan and other senior leaders. I raised it with Gehlot ji. But, as I said, there used to be hardly any meeting among ministers or legislators. There was no room for debate and discussion,” he said.
Gehlot won favour with the old guard that has been leading the Congress ever since Rahul Gandhi resigned as the Congress President. Yet it was ensured that Pilot was cut to size.
Rahul Gandhi’s resignation was only the first setback for Pilot. Many more setbacks were to follow. For starters, the Rajasthan CM ensured that Pilot was made to pay a heavy cost terms of political power for constantly manifesting a sense of disapproval about the manner in which he was being sidelined.
According to an Aaj Tak report, Gehlot used his influence in 10 Janpath to his advantage. Even apart from Sonia Gandhi, Gehlot ensured that he remained in touch with every important member of the party’s first family.
Dhiraj Srivastava, an ex-RAS officer considered close to Gehlot became the Private Secretary of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. This went in line with Priyanka’s rise in the Congress and Gehlot’s equations with 10 Janpath.
Even this single setback was enough to get Pilot sidelined. But the Rajasthan CM kept growing more and more influential within the party, and Pilot faced several more setbacks.
The Congress high command sent party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala to manage things in Rajasthan. This turned out to be quite a boon for Gehlot. The Rajasthan CM and Surjewala are old buddies.
Surjewala started criticising Pilot rather harshly. He said, “We heard Sachin Pilot’s statement on not joining the BJP through the media. If you don’t want to go to the BJP, then immediately reject the hospitality of the Haryana BJP government, free our MLAs from the BJP security ring at two hotels. Stop discussions with the BJP.” But Pilot had to face still more hardships.
The other emissary sent by the Congress high command, Ajay Maken went in Gehlot’s favour. Maken and Gehlot share warm relations since the days of Sheila Dixit-era. As Pilot and Gehlot got involved in a tug of war, Maken too turned against Pilot.
From the very beginning of the formation of the Congress government in Rajasthan, a power struggle seemed inevitable. Pilot would have been of the belief that he had led the party to victory, yet Gehlot was allowed to take over as the Chief Minister.
Between Gehlot and Pilot, one leader had to get written off. And it seems that Pilot is the one who finds his political career, at least with the Congress, coming to an absurd end.