File image of Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and rebel Congress leader Sachin Pilot
File image of Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and rebel Congress leader Sachin Pilot
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New Delhi: Sachin Pilot, the Rajasthan Congress rebel leader, may look down and out with only 18 out of 107 party legislators supporting him but he is still in the hunt to oust Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

Rajasthan High Court’s decision Friday on a petition by the 19 rebels against the assembly Speaker’s disqualification notice may be crucial to the survival of Gehlot government as also Pilot’s immediate political future. The Congress party’s crisis managers have conceded to ThePrint that Gehlot is not out of the woods yet, though the party claims the support of 109 MLAs, including smaller parties and Independents in the 200-member assembly.

The reason for Pilot’s hopes: the ruling Congress’ strength has been reduced to 88 from 107, excluding the 19 rebels. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 72 MLAs and its ally, Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) has three. As it is, the Gehlot government needs 13 non-Congress MLAs to survive while the opposition BJP-RLP combine needs 26 to topple it.

What had started as an attempt by Sachin Pilot to become the CM has turned into a battle of egos — and a moment of reckoning for all the humiliation he says he was subjected to as deputy CM.

The 42-year-old Pilot would settle for anything that results in the ouster of his ex-boss, CM Gehlot, say legislators in the Pilot camp. In his conversations with ThePrint, Pilot has maintained that he won’t join the BJP and wouldn’t mind “the heat and the dust for the next 5-10 years” if it comes to that. It means that Pilot is ready for a long haul — outside the BJP and the Congress — and chart out an independent path.

Although he has been in touch with Congress leaders and spoke to former finance minister P Chidambaram on Thursday, he is not convinced by their assurances as the party high command has made “many commitments in the past, too” only to renege on them, say Pilot’s confidantes.


Also read: Sachin Pilot has done the unthinkable — united all TV channels from NDTV to Republic


How HC ruling will swing political equations

If the Rajasthan High Court puts a hold on the assembly Speaker’s disqualification notices to the 19 rebel Congress MLAs and protects their membership, Pilot camp will get the time to consolidate and try to wean away a few more MLAs from the ruling party and its allies.

As mentioned above, Gehlot needs 13 non-Congress MLAs to survive while the Pilot-BJP team need 26 to topple it. Gehlot relies on the support of 10 out of 13 Independent MLAs — excluding three who are facing the state anti-corruption bureau’s probe for allegedly offering money to others to bring the government down. That brings his government’s tally to 98. He can then count on the support one CPI (M) MLA — another Left MLA is in the Pilot camp — and one MLA from Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), a Gehlot confidant who is a minister. That takes the ruling Congress’ tally to 100.

Until the start of the political drama, the Congress was banking on the support of two MLAs of the Bharatiya Tribal party (BTP) of Gujarat’s Chhotubhai Basava. But Basava has now directed his MLAs not to vote for either the Congress or the BJP in the assembly. If the BTP sticks to its stand, Gehlot government would have 100 MLAs, a majority in the 198-member house (minus BTP). Gehlot must be a hardcore optimist to rely on what may still be a notional majority by 1 in the assembly, especially in a fluid political situation with an adversary like Amit Shah’s BJP.

If the Rajasthan High Court rejects the petition by the rebel Congress MLAs, Gehlot may be right on top. The assembly Speaker may go ahead and disqualify the rebel Congress MLAs, making them redundant in the current political drama. Facing disqualification — and the prospect of seeking a renewed mandate from the people over three years before the next scheduled election — some MLAs in the Pilot camp may find it safer to return home. The Pilot camp that hopes to wean away some of the Independents who are Gehlot loyalists — 10 out of 13 — may be left disappointed. Even the BTP may do a re-think.


Also read: Sachin Pilot & Co will be 49th breakaway from Congress. But only 16 survived on their own


What now for Sachin Pilot’s chief ministerial ambitions

The sacked deputy chief minister of Rajasthan won’t settle for anything less than Gehlot’s ouster, according to Congress interlocutors who shared their assessment with ThePrint. Becoming the CM has become the second priority, they say. So, if a favourable high court ruling paves the way for the downfall of the Gehlot government, Pilot would first try to gather the numbers to install a government with the support of the BJP. It’s a plausible scenario.

As mentioned above, the BJP and its ally have 75 MLAs. If one adds up the anti-Gehlot camp — 19 from the Congress, three Independents who are facing the anti-corruption bureau’s probe and one CPM MLA — the opposition’s number swells to 98. And one never knows what the two-member BTP camp would do in such a situation.

If the 19 rebel Congress MLAs end up getting disqualified ahead of the trust vote/no-confidence motion, the assembly’s strength would be reduced to 181 MLAs. Gehlot is likely to sail through easily then.

However, in case the high court stalls the disqualification and they get to vote on a no-trust motion — risking their disqualification later — Gehlot government may be walking on thin ice. There could be a spell of the President’s Rule, which would give Pilot and the BJP time to get the required numbers. The rebels can always hope to get re-elected as their counterparts did in Karnataka and be rewarded subsequently.


Also read: Sachin Pilot is not Himanta Biswa. Every Congress rebel cannot win elections for BJP


Unpredictable factors play the spoiler

In all these numerical probabilities, there could be an X factor — that is, former chief minister Vasundhara Raje. The BJP high command has been consistently trying to undermine her in Rajasthan. She would not like Sachin Pilot to emerge as another factor —as part of the BJP or as its prop — in the leadership tussle in her party. On the record, BJP leaders discount any possibility of her scotching the party’s plans to dethrone Gehlot in cahoots with Pilot. But, they tell a different story privately. For the moment, she is keeping mum.

Whichever way Friday’s high court judgment goes, it will likely see the aggrieved party knocking on the doors of the Supreme Court and then a protracted legal battle — a prospect the BJP and Pilot wouldn’t mind.

As it is, Pilot may still fancy a chance to bring down Gehlot government but whether he will then get to occupy the CM’s chair is a million-dollar question. Odds are heavily stacked against him on that count.


Also read: Congress loses big when a Pilot or Scindia rebels but the ‘privileged’ are ultimate losers


 

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7 Comments Share Your Views

7 COMMENTS

  1. At any cost – even if the Congress has to give up Rajastan….Never ever let Pilot the Back Stabber be the CM. BJP will never let him be the CM, he may have some importance in the beginning, later he’ll be as good as trash. His rebels be in the gutter.

  2. The over ambitiousness of Sachin Pilot is ruining the prospects of an elected govt in Rajastan. He was enjoying a highly respectable position in the Congress govt in that state. His ambition to become a CM so soon is untenable. He should have waited for another 2 – 3 years. He is still young. He had enough promotions in the Congress party. Became Central Minister, state party chief, deputy CM and would have enjoyed a gradual rise within a period of next 3 – 5 years. He has spoilt his own political prospects along with that of Congress party. He should not have listened to the ill-advice of BJP which is out to grab more and more political power in the country, perhaps to get itself destroyed in this power struggle.

  3. It will be better if Pilot is thrown out. Even if he does not join BJP, he can form his own party and split the votes. and thus help BJP.
    There must be proportional representation. Each party should fight the election independently without any allainace. THERE SHOULD BE NO CANDIDATES The contest should only be between the parties. The number of seats in the assembly / parliament should be allotted by the Election Commission. Only the Central committee of each party will decide whom to send to the assembly/ loksabha.
    This way, all caste, muscle power, money power and such factors will be unable to decide the outcome of the election. If any member disagrees with the party line, the party high command will recall him and send a more loyal party worker.
    Thus learned scientists, professional experts, social workers and intellectuals can play a role in the legislature.
    No horse-trading will be possible. That would be TRUE DEMOCRACY

  4. The Gehlots & the Kamal Naths of INC would ensure that the Party is buried deep. What cheek they have to castigate their younger party colleagues as being over ambitious. What role did Mr AG play in revitalizing the party better 2013 – 18 ? His conduct of Side-lining & marginalizing Sachin shows his selfishness and lack of vision for the State and the Party.

    The only similar kind of approach was reportedly taken by one of the siblings in Karnataka when he used to strickly give a diktat to the Ministry Officials not to entertain any projects in the constituencies that had elected opposition parties.

    But in the instant case it is being done by a veteran and against his own deputy.

    We are after all only 70 + years as a Democratic country.

  5. Hope Sachin Pilot will not end like another Ayaram Gayaram of Congress party which includes seniors like Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram and many more

  6. Now , sachin should have his own party
    But , should name it like sachin Congress
    Yes
    Name of party should be like rajasthan peoples front- should be ok

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