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Ashok Gehlot is Congress pick for Rajasthan CM, Sachin Pilot to be his deputy

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Congress president Rahul Gandhi is believed to have taken this decision keeping in mind 2019 Lok Sabha elections when Gehlot’s experience will come in handy. 

New Delhi: Striking a balance between experience and youth, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday selected Ashok Gehlot as Chief Minister of Rajasthan and designated Sachin Pilot as his deputy.

Sixty-seven-year-old Gehlot’s elevation comes after intense backroom deliberations and manoeuvering, as a result of which the Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot, 41, who was instrumental in the party’s revival in the desert state, has been given the deputy position.

The announcement was made by senior party leader K.C. Venugopal, who is the AICC observer for Rajasthan, at a press conference in New Delhi. Both Gehlot and Pilot were present at the media briefing.

“I’m glad they gave me yet another opportunity to serve the people of Rajasthan. All the issues that we promised during the campaign such as jobs, we will take up now,” Gehlot said after the announcement.  “We will implement our promises including the loan waiver to farmers.  Sachin Pilot and I will implement all the decisions together.”

On his part, Pilot congragulated Gehlot and thanked Rahul Gandhi.  “Mera aur Ashokji ka jaadu bilkul chal gaya hai (Our magic has worked). I want to thank the Congress president and party workers. I want to congratulate Gehlotji,” Pilot said. “The mandate given by the people in all the three states is quite significant. UPA will form the government in 2019.”

The ‘acceptable face’

Gehlot, a two-term Rajasthan chief minister, was seen as the most “acceptable face” and someone who could provide stability to the government after the Congress fell short of the majority mark by a single seat in the 200-member assembly

The Congress won 99 of the 199 Rajasthan assembly seats that went to polls on December 7. The results were declared on 11 December.

“There were a number of issues that had to be factored in including the 2019 calculations and the situation was made particularly precarious in Rajasthan as we had to select between two senior leaders,” said a senior Congress leader.

Another senior party leader said Gehlot’s organisational skills worked in his favour as it would be instrumental in shaping the Rajasthan unit ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

“With barely a few months left for the Lok Sabha elections, someone experienced like him will be able to lead the party as he’s aware of the nuances and has served as the CM earlier too,” the leader added.

The BJP had won all 25 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan in 2014 and the Congress hopes to wrest a substantial number of them next year.

Reward for Pilot

The Congress, it appears, has rewarded Pilot, the state unit president, for leading the party from the front and literally reviving it from the scratch.

“The Congress president has been stressing on the fact that there is a need for new leadership to take charge and Pilot’s elevation reflects that,” said a senior party leader.  “He has worked extremely hard and led the campaign rigorously against the BJP. The party needs to develop new leadership too.”

Sources in the party said that Rahul Gandhi found it difficult to ignore the claims of Pilot, who left his family in Delhi to hit the streets and keep the heat on the BJP government for close to five years.

An acid test for Gandhi

For Congress president Gandhi, who took over the reins of the party last year, the selection proved to be an acid test as the party leadership did not want to take a decision that may trigger in-fighting in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Hours before the announcement was made, Gandhi tweeted a picture of himself with Gehlot on his right and Pilot on the left, with the caption reading, “The united colours of Rajasthan.”

He had met both at his residence in New Delhi Thursday.

Gehlot is known for his “clean image, ground-level connect and accessibility”. During his tenure as the chief minister of Rajasthan, he had started a free medicine scheme that was stopped by the BJP government when it came to power. He had lost the 2003 and 2013 elections, which many claim was not a statement on his work but of the party.

The report has been updated with the quotes of Gehlot and Pilot.

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  1. I am happy to see the photo at the top of this article — all three smiling, what is easy to see, FROM THE HEART. That’s good news for Congress. Only regret is that this seemingly obvious solution took so long to arrive at. This understanding should have been arrived at even before the elections, and announced soon after the results. Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia are no doubt very capable people, but they must realize that there is no substitute for on the job training, or hands on training. Rahul himself too must realize this fact. Even Indira Gandhi started as a junior minister in the cabinet of Shastri ji, and here these three are, impatient to become a chief minister or a prime minister! If Rahul was keen on getting into the government, then why did he not take up ANY ministry under Dr Manmohan Singh, just to get some hands on experience in a real-life government environment? Leading a political party is a very different ballgame; here you have only sycophants around you, in a government set up you have small and big officers around you each with a bigger ego than the other. To control them requires a different kind of experience.

    Everything is well that ends well. Congratulations to the Rajasthan team.

  2. Sachin Pilot is meant for bigger things in life than deputy chief minister. Ashok Gehlot will hand over the keys to the state secretariat to the BJP in 2023, as he did in 2003 and 2013.

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