New Delhi: Rajasthan Congress leader Sachin Pilot giving up his rebellion may look like a retreat in the face of a defeat, but the young leader has reasons to be satisfied with the outcome. He didn’t succeed in dislodging Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, but has got him under siege.
The Congress high command Monday set up a committee to look into Pilot’s grievances, and All India Congress Committee (AICC) functionaries said the panel will ensure that the rebels are accommodated in the state Cabinet or as chairpersons of corporations and boards, besides looking into the functioning of the government.
AICC general secretary in-charge of Rajasthan Avinash Pande, a Gehlot supporter, is also on his way out as Pilot wanted, said party sources.
They added that although the high command has made “no commitment” on Pilot’s main demand for declaring him as the CM candidate at least a year ahead of the 2023 elections, “a call will be taken at an appropriate time”.
There are three reasons why Sachin Pilot may feel satisfied even though Gehlot seems to have won the latest round, proving himself as an adept crisis manager.
Gandhi family cares
First, Pilot has emerged as a leader the Gandhi family values and cares about. Despite Gehlot attacking him continuously all these four weeks, Priyanka Vadra kept him engaged in conversations before Rahul Gandhi also stepped in.
Gehlot sought to project Pilot as a “betrayer” who was conniving with the BJP to bring down the Congress government in Rajasthan. But the CM undermined his own efforts by making provocative remarks against Pilot, lending credence to the rebel leader’s contention that he was forced to go down this path due to his ‘victimisation’.
The Congress high command seemed to see merit in his complaint, thanks to the CM’s unrelenting diatribe against him. In case of Jyotiraditya Scindia, the Gandhi family had remained indifferent, making no efforts to persuade him to stay back in the Congress.
Second, Pilot remains the obvious choice whenever the Congress high command goes for a change of guard in Rajasthan. Rahul Gandhi was always known to be interested in developing alternative leadership in the state, be it because of his natural antipathy towards the so-called Old Guards or in genuine interests of the party that must promote future leadership.
Way back in 2008, ahead of the assembly elections in Rajasthan, Rahul was seeking to project C.P. Joshi as Gehlot’s alternative. Joshi missed his chance after losing his election by one vote but Rahul kept building his profile by getting him inducted in the Manmohan Singh Cabinet with important portfolios.
After the Congress lost the 2013 assembly election, Joshi was accommodated as AICC general secretary. The Congress kept losing one state after another under Joshi’s watch, leading to Rahul’s disillusionment with Joshi.
By the 2023 assembly election in Rajasthan, Rahul will be at the helm of the Congress, pushing the Old Guards to the sidelines. Gehlot will also be 72 years old by then. Pilot can fancy a chance for the top position in Rajasthan if the Congress beats anti-incumbency in 2023.
The Raje factor
Third, Pilot has survived to fight another day. With former CM Vasundhara Raje looking determined to guard her turf and the BJP high command looking for her possible successor within the party, he would have an uncertain future in the BJP even if he were to set aside his “ideological issues” with the saffron party.
Charting an independent course by founding a new party was easier said than done. In the given circumstances, the best course for him was to continue his fight against Gehlot from within and bide his time.
As mentioned above, the Congress high command has given him enough reasons to claim victory, howsoever partial. The number of his camp followers is likely to only grow in coming months as Congress leaders are known to salute the rising sun.
Sachin Pilot might have lost the battle but the war has just begun.
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