Jaipur: Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot may be in a rebellious mood against CM Ashok Gehlot, escalating the simmering rivalry between them to a new and probably dangerous level, but its comparison with Jyotiraditya Scindia’s rebellion in Madhya Pradesh is untenable.
For one, unlike Kamal Nath, whose government Scindia brought down, Gehlot has the numbers to keep his fortress safe.
The numbers are not in favour of the BJP — it has 72 MLAs, while its ally the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party has three MLAs, which means it would be about 26 short of the majority mark of 101 in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly. The Congress, meanwhile, has 107 MLAs, including six from the Bahujan Samaj Party who, in a replay of 2008, merged their legislative party with the Congress.
The matter is being challenged by the BSP, but the final decision rests with Speaker Dr C.P. Joshi, who is an old confidant and ally of Gehlot.
Also in the Congress camp are two CPI(M) MLAs, two from the Bharatiya Tribal Party, one from Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), and 13 independents, 11 of whom were Congress rebels in the last election.
A bridge too far for BJP
Even if the BJP gets the support of 13 independents — which looks unlikely — and two BTP MLAs, it would still need 11 Congress MLAs just to be able to form the government, and then constantly worry about its stability.
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Leader of the Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria said: “We are only 75 (MLAs). From where can we get the support of 25 MLAs?”
Another issue is that no MLA would want to face the risk of re-election. At best, they can be ministers for six months, but not all of them can be made ministers either.
The third problem for the BJP is former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, who has been sidelined and is not on the best terms with either the state or central leaderships.
Deteriorating relations between Gehlot and Pilot
The real bone of contention between Gehlot and Pilot is well-known — the latter had successfully spearheaded the party to victory in the 2018 assembly elections, and aspired to be CM, but the Congress high command favoured Gehlot for the post.
The current crisis has its genesis in June’s Rajya Sabha elections, and the fact that Pilot continues to hold the presidency of the Rajasthan Congress despite becoming Deputy CM after the December 2018 elections.
In the Rajya Sabha elections, Gehlot managed to override Pilot’s objections to secure one seat for his protégé Neeraj Dangi, who had previously lost three assembly elections.
Pilot was apparently also miffed with attempts to put him and his supporters in the dock for the BJP’s alleged attempts at horse-trading. He insisted that the whole talk of cross-voting was just an attempt to create confusion, but did not name the BJP.
However, the latest flashpoint in the two leaders’ tussle is an FIR by the Rajasthan Police’s special operations group (SOG), which a veteran Congress leader told ThePrint on condition of anonymity “seems to be an attempt to defame Sachin”.
Gehlot loyalists said there is strong evidence that Pilot’s camp was “in cahoots” with the BJP to bring down the government, and that the situation is serious this time. But they expressed confidence that there was no imminent danger to the government.
“Pilot doesn’t have the numbers,” said a Gehlot loyalist.
However, most leaders in the Congress said the real tussle between the leaders was on the issue of Pilot still being the party’s state chief. Gehlot is said to want Pilot replaced by one of his supporters, because he currently has a say in both the government and the party. When it comes to cabinet reshuffles or appointments to various boards and corporations, Gehlot has to to accommodate Pilot’s wishes.
Rajasthan will have to hold previously postponed panchayat and municipal elections after a recent Supreme Court decision, which rejected the Gehlot government and the state election commission’s plea and asked them to complete the poll process by 15 October.
Congress sources said Pilot wants to hold the party presidency till these elections for a greater say in tickets, and take credit for a potential win, but that goes against the wishes of Gehlot.
According to the sources, Pilot wants the Congress high command to intervene as he believes the CM has been given too much of a free hand. The current tussle, they claimed, is more to exert pressure on the high command and Gehlot than emulate Scindia and switch sides to the BJP.
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