New Delhi: Political turmoil continues in the Congress one resignation after another with Lokesh Sharma, the officer on special duty (OSD) to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, resigning from his post late Saturday night after one of his tweets sparked a controversy.
Sharma was involved in managing Gehlot’s social media profiles and social media campaigns.
In a tweet drafted in Hindi, Sharma wrote that the “strong person is being made helpless while a mediocre person is being strengthened”.
मजबूत को मजबूर, मामूली को मग़रूर किया जाए…
बाड़ ही खेत को खाए, उस फसल को कौन बचाए !!
— Lokesh Sharma (@_lokeshsharma) September 18, 2021
The tweet is being seen as an indirect criticism of the party’s high command which took a decision to change the leadership in Punjab.
A senior Congress leader told ThePrint that Sharma could not have posted the tweet without Gehlot’s knowledge and that this was an indirect message to the central leadership from the chief minister.
“After the change of guard in Punjab, all eyes are set on Rajasthan. Though the situation in Rajasthan is quite different but through this tweet it seems the chief minister is sending out a message to the central leadership but not directly saying anything,” the senior leader said.
Speaking to ThePrint, Sharma said that as his tweet has become a huge controversy, he met the CM and requested him to accept his resignation.
“I will continue to work for the Congress party as I have been doing in the past,” he said.
Sharma’s resignation, however, is under consideration and has not been accepted yet, sources said.
NSUI coordinator to Gehlot’s OSD
Sharma has been associated with Gehlot for over a decade.
“Right from handling the media to managing Gehlot’s social media account, Sharma over the years had become quite close to Gehlot,” a party functionary said.
According to the Congress functionary, 45-year-old Sharma joined NSUI, the student wing of the party in 1993 and served as the state general secretary of the students’ organisation between 1999 and 2000.
He also served as the media coordinator of the Rajasthan Congress from 2011-13.
Another party functionary said Sharma had played an instrumental role in building the social media profile of Gehlot and drawing up his social media campaign over a period of time.
“He has been connected with Gehlot for many years. It was Sharma who built Gehlot’s social media profile in 2012 when he was the chief minister. Though he did not have any official position then. After this, he became closely involved with Gehlot’s social media campaign too for the elections. He continued to be associated with him and was made the OSD in 2019 when Gehlot became the chief minister,” said a party source.
“So it seems unlikely that Sharma would post something like this without Gehlot’s knowledge,” he added.
Lokesh Sharma used to oversee Gehlot’s media work even when the Congress was not in power in the state.
Sharma’s name had surfaced in the Rajasthan phone tapping case in June this year. The crime branch of the Delhi Police had summoned him in connection with the case. He was named as an accused in the FIR lodged by Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. Shekhawat had accused Sharma and others of criminal conspiracy and “unlawfully intercepting telegraphic signals (telephonic conversation).”
‘Tweet being misinterpreted’
In his resignation letter to Gehlot, Sharma has written that his tweet was being misinterpreted and a political colour was being given to it by linking it to the political developments in Punjab.
He further said that after assuming the responsibility of OSD, keeping in mind the post and his limitations, he never tweeted anything political.
“Since 2010, I have been active on Twitter and till date, I have never written any such words, which can be called wrong, in relation to any leader of the Congress or about the Congress government of the state, apart from the party line,” he wrote in his resignation letter.
Although he posted the tweet before Amarinder Singh’s resignation as the Punjab chief minister, the political stir was intensifying in the Punjab Congress at that time.
“Gehlot is a seasoned leader and he can have a direct conversation with the central leadership so he wouldn’t need to do all this. The political situation in Rajasthan and Punjab can’t be compared. Gehlot is in a strong position but then final decisions rest with the central leadership. I think the tweet is in bad taste but it didn’t have Gehlot’s approval, rather he wouldn’t even have known about it,” said another leader.
Interestingly, Gehlot also too took to Twitter Sunday hoping that Amarinder Singh “won’t take any step that could cause damage to the Congress party”.
“I hope that Capt. Amarinder Singh ji won’t take any step that could cause damage to the Congress party. Capt. Sahib himself has said that the party made him CM and allowed him to continue as CM for nine and a half years,” he tweeted.
I hope that Capt. Amarinder Singh ji won't take any step that could cause damage to the Congress party. Capt. Sahib himself has said that the party made him CM and allowed him to continue as CM for nine and a half years. pic.twitter.com/rqJfzzxUp3
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) September 19, 2021
“Capt. Amarinder Singh ji is a respected leader of the party and I hope that he will continue to work in the future also keeping the Party’s interests in the forefront,” Gehlot said.
He has worked to the best of his capacity and served the people of Punjab.
Capt. Amarinder Singh ji is a respected leader of the party and I hope that he will continue to work in the future also keeping the Party's interests in the forefront.
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) September 19, 2021