The political crisis that flared up in Rajasthan late last week may not have any easy solution: the threat to chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s Congress government from his disgruntled deputy Sachin Pilot, also the state PCC chief, is real, and the Congress may have to work hard to save its ministry.
Pilot’s open rebellion on Sunday, where he claimed the support of 30 MLAs and some Independents, soon after he met some senior central leaders in New Delhi, has only made it more difficult.
The immediate reason behind the revolt was the state police’s notice sent to him on Friday over the inquiry into the alleged attempts to destabilise the Gehlot government, under IPC sections related to sedition and conspiracy, but the real cause is Pilot feels his voice is not heard with respect in the Gehlot government’s decision-making.
Pilot had played a major role in ensuring the party’s victory in the 2018 polls, defeating the BJP led by Vasundhara Raje, and though he was made deputy CM, he still feels his views aren’t considered adequately.
Though Pilot claimed Sunday the Ashok Gehlot government is in a minority, it was apparent at the legislature party meeting at Gehlot’s residence on Monday, attended by at least 100 MLAs, that a majority of the state’s Congress legislators support the CM. Gehlot’s camp claims the support of 106 MLAs; while Mr Pilot’s camp disputes this, saying he has the support of only 93-94 MLAs.
But that itself establishes many more legislators are backing the CM than the 30 MLAs whose support Pilot claims. Pilot aspires to be CM, true, but in a democratic set-up even he must recognise the numbers are stacked in the senior leader’s favour.
And as the nation faces a huge threat from China, and needs to tackle the snowballing coronavirus cases, on which the Rajasthan government’s entire attention must be focused now, the timing Pilot’s revolt was extremely inappropriate.
The Congress, through spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala, has said that despite his rebellion, the party’s “doors are always open” to Mr Pilot, and all his grievances can be listened to and solutions found.
Perhaps the offer of more portfolios of his choice could be a way out. Pilot, while floating suggestions that he may form a regional party, ruled out a move towards the BJP, which might jump at the chance to re-enter the government through the backdoor after being soundly rejected by voters. (The tax raids on two of Mr Gehlot’s backers at this juncture might indicate how dirty these games can get.)
Pilot had a long chat with old friend Jyotiraditya Scindia, now with the BJP, in New Delhi Sunday, but he should remember that despite the latter’s comments about his “talent and capability” in a tweet, the political circumstances of the two are very different.
At Monday’s legislature party meeting, the MLAs formally adopted a resolution expressing support for the CM, but the matter is far from over. It is learnt the MLAs, accompanied by Mr Gehlot, have gone to a five-star resort in Jaipur, where they will stay some time, presumably to deter poaching attempts.
Till the issue of Pilot’s rebellion is resolved, one way or another, political uncertainty will continue in Rajasthan.