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A Message in Gehlot’s Unusual Aggression, a Method to Pilot’s Uncharacteristic Restraint

By: Sumit Pande

News18.com

Last Updated: July 21, 2020, 10:22 IST

Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot on Monday. (File photo: ANI)

Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot on Monday. (File photo: ANI)

The Rajasthan CM’s diatribe against his former deputy, Sachin Pilot, has surprised many. The attacks are aimed both at the defectors and his own party MLAs.

Politics is a mind game. No one wants to be caught unawares. As in any cliffhanger, the playing eleven from both sides in Rajasthan are rarely letting their guards down before the final over is bowled.

Observers and participants alike are seeking to scan every move, every statement for a cipher. Who knows, a sudden pause may behold a temporary dentate. An uncharacteristic outburst may allude to a pro-tem setback.

In the Rajasthan MLA chase, chief minster Ashok Gehlot’s diatribe against his former deputy, Sachin Pilot, has surprised many. Gehlot is a man of few words. Very cautious in his utterances even in the face of a severe crisis.

But if one were to take a close look, there is a method in Gehlot’s aggression this season. And a thought too.

His first frontal attack on Pilot was timed just hours before reports started to trickle in that a section in the Congress central leaders wanted to keep a door ajar for the 19 MLAs camping in Manesar.

“Sone ki choori pet mein khani ki nahin hoti. Golden knife should not be used to cut one’s own stomach,” Gehlot told journalists after meeting his MLAs. In the next one week, he has not minced words in accusing Pilot of conspiring to topple the government.

The statement was timed to coincide with reports from Delhi quoting top Congress sources on how the party central leadership was trying to keep the ‘door ajar’ for the dissident leader.

Gehlot sought to close both doors and windows firmly by continuing with his diatribe over the next seven days. All the key organisational functionaries considered Pilot loyalists were replaced. The chief minister was trying to eject Pilot out of state politics, even if the high command were to work out a compromise. All possibility of a status-quo-ante were nipped in the bud.

On Monday, Gehlot launched another attack on Pilot. This time a personal one, calling his former deputy “nikamma and nakara”.

The CM’s aggression is aimed both at the defectors and his own party MLAs. He is sending a message to his own flock of MLAs that he is in control, and confident of surviving the current crisis to complete the term of office.

In the process, he is also targeting the defectors, asking them to choose their side a bit wisely. Or even provoke a response from them which might come handy in strengthening the disqualification petition before the speaker.

Contrary to Gehlot’s aggression, Sachin Pilot has been uncharacteristically reticent. Papers have carried his side of the story primarily quoting “team Sachin” or “sources close to Sachin.”

The Pilot group has challenged the notice for disqualification before the Rajasthan High Court on the ground that they have neither violated any whip nor have indulged in anti-party activities. Any statement contradicting their stated position would only strengthen Gehlot’s case before the court and may lead to their disqualification.

On the few occasions Pilot has gone on record, he has tried to dispel reports of any truck with the BJP. A point in this case is a Pilot quote widely circulated to media: “Not joining BJP. Our fight is to save Congress by changing the leadership.”

The other key player in the battle for Rajasthan is BJP leader Vasundhara Raje. The former Rajasthan CM had maintained a studious silence on developments in Jaipur till NDA ally and Nagaur MP Hanuman Beniwal went on an offensive accusing Raje of not working in her party’s best interest.

A few days later, Raje confidante and former speaker Kailash Meghwal issued a statement against efforts to de-stabilise a democratically elected government.

Raje tweeted her response a few hours later blaming the Congress party and its leaders for the discord in Rajasthan at a time when the state is battling a pandemic. She signed off in bold letters: “it is the interest of our people that must remain paramount”.

Smart politicians have this ability to draft statements which remain open to interpretations.
first published:July 21, 2020, 10:21 IST
last updated:July 21, 2020, 10:22 IST