Six days after AICC general secretary KC Venugopal said Congress president Sonia Gandhi will decide on the Rajasthan chief minister’s post “in a day or two", uncertainty prevails among party workers in the state.
“The state of confusion and uncertainty eventually harms the party. The assembly elections are approaching and hard work has to be done, but when there is confusion regarding the chief minister, it becomes difficult for the party workers," said Muzaffar Bharti, a Congress leader from Ajmer.
Senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot through his routine functioning, visits and meetings has tried to indicate that he is going to stay as the chief minister. However, dilemma persists among Congress workers with certain factions still believing there may be a change of guard in the state. Some Congress members said the party high-command should clear the confusion prevailing in Rajasthan.
Former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot held a meeting with Rajasthan Food and Civil Supplies Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas at the latter’s residence on Monday night. The development is being seen as politically significant in the state. Rajasthan Minister Rajendra Gudha, who has switched to the Pilot camp from Gehlot faction, and a few other legislators also met the former deputy chief minister at his residence on Tuesday.
“The chief minister has resumed visits to districts, holding meetings and appears confident. At the same time, there are some other developments also like Pilot meeting Khachariyawas and talks doing the rounds that the chief minister will be changed. This has created a lot of confusion which should be cleared by the Congress high-command," a party leader said in Jaipur. He said that if the party has to win the Rajasthan Assembly polls again, confusion will have to be removed at all levels.
Congress leader from Ajmer, Bharti said the party organisation is also needed to be strengthened in Rajasthan and this can be done only when the “uncertainty over the CM post is cleared". An MLA from Gehlot camp said the chief minister has shifted his focus again to the routine work, conducting visits to districts to attend programmes under the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Olympics.
“He has given clear indications to people by visiting districts, to bureaucracy by holding a meeting of secretaries. However, there are certain developments which are fuelling speculations and it is for the party leadership to clear the confusion," he said. He said that people are appreciating schemes launched by the chief minster and if confusion persists, it causes loss to the party.
On the other hand, one of the leaders from Pilot’s constituency Tonk said that people want him as the chief minister and are waiting for the development to happen. “Pilot is the leader of 36 ‘kaum’ and not only that of Gurjars. People want to see Pilot as the chief minister of Rajasthan," he said.
The political crisis in the state unfolded with the party’s move to hold a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting at the chief minister’s residence on September 25. This was seen as an exercise to change the chief minister prior to the election to choose the party president for which Gehlot was the front runner.
However, the meeting could not take place because Ashok Gehlot’s loyal MLAs held a parallel meeting and handed over their resignation to assembly speaker CP Joshi against any move to make Pilot the CM. They wanted to get any MLA from 102, who supported the Ashok Gehlot government during the crisis in July 2020 that happened due to the rebellion of Pilot and 18 other MLAs, appointed as the new chief minister if Gehlot had to be replaced.
Gehlot has apologized to Sonia Gandhi in Delhi for not being able to get a one-line resolution passed in the CLP meeting. After returning from Delhi, Gehlot started his work normally, indicating that all is well now.
Pilot camp has remained silent all this while. It may be noted that Pilot and Gehlot were in the race for the CM post after the Congress came to power in December 2018. Pilot was the state Congress president that time, but the party high-command made Gehlot the chief minister for a third time and Pilot was made his deputy.
In July 2020, Pilot along with 18 Congress MLAs revolted against the leadership of the chief minister. The one-month-long crisis ended after the intervention of former Congress president Rahul Gandhi.