The political crisis of Rajasthan, which was initiated with the open rebellion of Congress stalwart Sachin Pilot and 18 other MLAs who supported him, appears to have ended with a truce between the two factions of the party in the state. Needless to say, Ashok Gehlot has managed to overwhelmingly reduce the Pilot faction into mere political spectators in the state, whose presence or absence from the Congress would make no difference whatsoever for the Chief Minister. Yesterday, Ashok Gehlot met with Pilot and his faction alongside leaders like K C Venugopal, Avinash Pande, Randeep Surjewala and Ajay Maken. Pictures which poured out from the truce-meet showed the leaders smiling like there was never any animosity.
While Sachin Pilot would have hoped for a grand exit from the party, which would instantly make the Rajasthan government crumble, he could not achieve what he had set out for. While Jyotiraditya Scindia’s exit from the Congress was followed by Kamal Nath’s government spectacularly collapsing in Madhya Pradesh, Pilot’s ‘desert storm’ barely affected the government in Rajasthan after initial momentum. Sure, Ashok Gehlot panicked when news first broke of Sachin Pilot having revolted, however, the Chief Minister was quick to act, strategically so.
Much of Pilot’s inability to jolt the Gehlot government also stems from his indecisiveness. Sachin Pilot lost much time still pondering as to what his next game plan should be. It seems Pilot revolted without a concrete plan in place, and that has cost him and his faction dearly. Even as Gehlot was getting his act together by consolidating his own faction, shifting them to hotels and calling the party’s legislative party meet in a show of strength, Sachin Pilot failed to take drastic measures. Time was of the essence, and Pilot wasted too much of it while trying to have a politically correct exit.
Moreover, there was the Vasundhara factor. While BJP was an option for Sachin Pilot, Vasundhara Raje was allegedly not in favour of him joining the party. Pilot is an ambitious leader, and he couldn’t achieve anything by remaining in the shadows of Vasundhara who still holds a lot of control over the Rajasthan BJP unit. Ultimately, he was left with no choice but to come back to the Congress’ fold.
Ashok Gehlot was at war with Pilot. From passing nasty comments on him to even treating him as a non-entity, Gehlot did it all. As a matter of fact, in what was supposed to be a truce meeting yesterday, Gehlot also slyly remarked that his government would have won the trust vote even without the support of Sachin Pilot and 18 of his MLAs. This was aimed to make Pilot know that he is a non-entity in the state, and that his presence or absence does not affect the status or stability of Gehlot’s government.
Ashok Gehlot has always been casual about the exit of Sachin Pilot. He was least interested in a truce, and a reconciliation of the two factions was only made possible due to the intervention of the top leadership of the Congress, which includes Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi. While for the top leadership, winning over Pilot once again became a prestige issue, Gehlot couldn’t be happier with his rival’s exit. With the exit of Pilot from the Congress, the slate would have been cleared for Gehlot’s son to play a greater role in the state, only to ultimately be projected as the Congress’ chief ministerial candidate few years down the line.
Sachin Pilot returning to the Congress’ fold, with a diminished status than before no less, shows how comprehensively Gehlot was able to make himself look like the boss in Rajasthan. Even after using what many would call foul language against Sachin Pilot subsequent to his open revolt, if Pilot has been made to return to the Congress’ fold, it is rather telling about the win which Gehlot has secured at the end of this entire fiasco.
What also needs to be remembered is that there is no change in the status quo of the Congress in Rajasthan, instead, Pilot has ended up losing much of his power and prestige at the end of this battle. Pilot has reconciled with the Congress even as he remains sacked as the state’s party chief. His position as the Deputy Chief Minister is gone. As such, Gehlot has been able to demolish whatever stature Pilot enjoyed prior to his rebellion. A reconciliation between the Gehlot and Pilot factions has been forced from the top, however, Gehlot had already secured his position in the state and was never enthusiastic about Sachin’s return.
What happens during the trust vote in the state’s assembly is yet to be seen. While Ashok Gehlot is all set to win the same, in politics, we never know.