New Delhi: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his sacked deputy Sachin Pilot seemed to have buried the hatchet last month by putting the ugly political spat behind them, but the latter it appears has decided to keep the fire burning in the expectation to position himself as the CM face.
It was widely expected that Pilot will be accommodated in the All India Congress Committee (AICC) as a means to pacify him after he mounted an open rebellion against the Gehlot government in July. But in the organisational reshuffle that took place last week, Pilot did not find a place.
“He has decided to keep the focus on Rajasthan till the next state elections. He will keep the pressure on Gehlot while actively positioning himself as a leader in his own right so that he can emerge as a strong candidate for the post of the CM,” a source close to Pilot told ThePrint.
From raising the Gujjar reservation issue to holding blood donation camps in his name across districts and regularly meeting party workers at his residence — Pilot has now stationed himself in Jaipur and plans to expand his clout there.
Blood camps, Gujjar issues
On Pilot’s 43rd birthday earlier this month, his supporters set up nearly 400 blood camps across different districts of Rajasthan and claimed a record donation of over 45,000 units of blood.
He also held rallies in different parts of the state last month opposing the Modi government’s decision to conduct the JEE-NEET exams amid the pandemic.
JEE-NEET परीक्षा स्थगित करने की मांग को लेकर आयोजित धरना-प्रदर्शन –
देश व दुनिया मे कोरोना महामारी से जो माहौल बना हुआ है उसके चलते कांग्रेस ने सिर्फ इतना कहा है कि ये परीक्षाएं जो एक बार स्थगित हो चुकी है तो क्या हम लोग एक बार फिर से संवेदनशील होकर इस पर पुनर्विचार नही कर सकते। pic.twitter.com/RSJWgjFaHR
— Sachin Pilot (@SachinPilot) August 28, 2020
Pilot has also increased the frequency of his meetings with party workers at his Jaipur residence, calling it a sign of his “connection with the masses”.
जनता से जुड़ाव एवं प्रदेश का विकास हमारा सर्वप्रथम लक्ष्य है। आज प्रदेश के विभिन्न स्थानों से आए हुए आगंतुकों से मुलाकात की। pic.twitter.com/njpb5uk007
— Sachin Pilot (@SachinPilot) September 2, 2020
He also wrote a letter to CM Gehlot on 2 September, seeking his intervention to ensure “proper implementation” of the 5 per cent reservation in government jobs to Gujjars — the community Pilot hails from.
He said in the letter that development works under the ‘Devnarayan scheme’— a welfare scheme meant for the upliftment of the Gujjar community — isn’t being implemented smoothly.
“People meet me personally to demand proper implementation and sufficient budget allotment to this scheme,” Pilot said in the letter.
Prakash Bhandari, political analyst based out of Rajasthan, said: “The dust has not settled in Rajasthan yet. Pilot’s demands of having his loyalists accommodated in the cabinet haven’t been met yet. But he is trying to constantly meet people, spend time with the party cadre and build his own clout in Rajasthan and also increase his popularity.
“He is trying to cater to Gujjars more actively as part of this strategy,” Bhandari added.
Factionalism continues to persist
As part of the ‘arrangement’ struck between Pilot and the party high command, the Congress had last month replaced Avinash Pande with Ajay Maken as the party’s general secretary in-charge of Rajasthan.
A three-member committee was also set up on 16 August to look into Pilot’s ‘grievances’. The committee has AICC treasurer Ahmed Patel, general secretary in-charge of organisation K.C. Venugopal and Maken as members.
But while over a month has passed since the turmoil settled, Maken has visited Rajasthan only once for a two-day trip last week, while Patel and Venugopal are yet to make an official visit.
Maken’s visit to the state, however, made it clear that factionalism still persists within the Rajasthan Congress.
When Maken was accompanied to the Congress office in Ajmer by Health Minister Raghu Sharma, considered close to Gehlot, a group of party workers belonging to the Pilot camp immediately began raising ‘Sachin Pilot Zindabad’ slogans as a mark of their support for the leader outside the party office.
These workers were detained by the police and only let off after Masuda MLA Rakesh Pareek staged a sit-in outside the police station demanding the release of his colleagues.
“Workers get over-enthusiastic with their love for a leader. They have immense love and admiration for Sachin Pilot, so they were not wrong in chanting those slogans,” Pareek told ThePrint.
Bhandari said these protests are signs that “factionalism hasn’t gone anywhere from Rajasthan Congress, and it will only grow from here”.
‘Hopeful that all our concerns will be heard’
Speaking to the media during his visit to Jaipur, Maken had said he will hold a meeting every month in Jaipur and discuss the feedback submitted by ministers in-charge of various districts.
Meanwhile, Pilot’s aides are hopeful that the committee will pay heed to their concerns.
“This is just the beginning. We are hopeful that gradually all our concerns will be heard,” Ramesh Meena, Sapotra MLA, who was earlier a part of the rebel camp, told ThePrint.
“These are processes which take time, and require patience. We are confident that all the feedback will be taken into account and grievances will be addressed,” he added.
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