Ashok Gehlot's Stand Shows the Old Guard in Congress Has Decided to Dig in Its Heels And Stay Put
Post polls, the Rajasthan chief minister is attempting to put a lid on any suggestions to hand over the baton to his deputy Sachin Pilot — the state chief whom he pipped for the top post in a protracted battle of wits and manoeuvres.
File photo of Rahul Gandhi with Ashok Gehlot.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is a man of few words. He is a low-key operator, and has survived the rough and tumble of Congress politics for more than four decades now. He has worked with three generations of the Nehru-Gandhi family and has never fallen short of showing adequate allegiance to the party.
In short, the three-time chief minister — like most Congressmen of his generation — is effectively programmed to credit every success to Congress’ first family. Similarly, defeats are seamlessly yoked to ‘collective failure’ of the organisation.
Rahul Gandhi, after the second consecutive drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls, disrupted this rigmarole to the discomfiture of many. Now that the party president had resigned taking responsibility for the defeat, the question was, would the others in position of power follow suit?
Not many have actually in the last one month. Those comfortably ensconced in the party’s highly regimented power pyramid have only asked Gandhi to stay put. As one dyed in the wool ‘Congressi’ said: “Haathi ke paanv mein sabka paanv”.
Gehlot on Wednesday added an interesting dimension to the uneasy state of flux in the Congress, both at the centre and in Rajasthan. After presenting the first budget of his first term, Gehlot told the press that in the assembly polls “people wanted him to be the chief minister”.
In other words, Gehlot underscored that the last elections were won and contested in his name and face and hence, he should continue to lead the government for its full five-year term. “Respecting sentiments of the people, Rahul Gandhi as Congress president gave me this opportunity to work,” he added.
This assertion of leadership, and popularity — that too by someone like Gehlot — is indeed surprising. For someone who has risen from the grassroots, Gehlot knows all too well: appropriation of success in Congress can invariably lead to interpretations and possible consequences.
Perhaps, not anymore. Or maybe, through his statement, Gehlot is seeking to settle two issues. One, he is showing a clear reluctance to move to Delhi for a role in national politics. In the churning to elect Gandhi’s successor, many names — including that of Gehlot’s — have been doing the rounds.
The Congressmen, in their own personal assessment, perhaps had a much better idea of the party’s prospects at the centre. Interestingly, some of his ministers were averse to contesting the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year.
Post polls, the Rajasthan chief minister is now attempting to put a lid on any suggestions to hand over the baton to his deputy Sachin Pilot — the state chief whom he pipped for the top post in a protracted battle of wits and manoeuvres.
The Pilot camp posits for a leadership change. Gehlot, they argue, was chosen as he assured good results in Lok Sabha polls. And having failed to deliver the goods, he should pave way for Gen Next.
Gehlot on the contrary asserts that the vote in December 2019 assembly polls was for him. And him alone. The Congress lost in May 2019 in many states, including Rajasthan but he has sought to delink the two elections in totality.
Gehlot’s line alludes clearly that the old guard in the Congress has decided to dig in their heels. And stay put.
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