Signs of overtures were made by Congress leaders Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot on Tuesday, hours after a truce was announced between the latter and the Congress party. While Gehlot said he was bound to look into the grievances of his MLAs and party members as Chief Minister, assuring that his government will complete its full five-year term, Pilot told News18 he was neither bitter nor sad about the events that unfolded over the past month in Rajasthan.
But as the dust settles on the political battlefield, several questions are being asked about the new political equations emerging in the state. It is being argued that, among other people, BJP's Vasundhara Raje has emerged strong from this crisis.
By keeping away from the entire crisis, Raje, who is said to command the loyalties of at least half of the 72 BJP MLAs, has made her party bosses realise her political heft.
"The way Vasundhara Raje reacted during the entire crisis, it's surely making people in the BJP realise what an important asset she is to them," said Jaipur-based analyst Narayan Bareth. "The BJP, which was once looking to stake claim to the CM's chair, is now running helter-skelter trying to prevent its MLAs from switching over. Raje's loyalists have publicly said they are not in favour of destabilising an elected government."
Bareth argues that in a scenario where the BJP would have toppled the Congress-led government, Raje would have not found a suitable place. "In such a scenario, someone else would have grown at Raje's cost. But that's not happening now," he opined.
On the contrary, Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, whose purported audio clip had surfaced in connection with the plot to topple the state government and who was, according to some, a contender for the CM's chair, has not emerged from the crisis quite intact, Bareth argued. "It's a loss of face for him as he had invested his personal political capital into it," he said.
Between Gehlot and Pilot, many believe that the Chief Minister has emerged as a clear winner while his former deputy has burned his bridges both within the Congress and outside. Pilot, who with a few of his loyalists exchanged many pleasantries with BJP leaders on Twitter, runs the risk of a trust deficit within the party and being the target of a smear campaign by the BJP that fancied his support at some point over the past month.
But according to senior journalist and political analyst Shyam Sundar Sharma, it would be presumptuous to say anything with certainty about Pilot or his political future. According to Sharma, to understand how exactly Pilot has been cut to size or how much Gehlot has grown after this crisis, it would be vital to stay focused on two important political developments likely to unfold in Rajasthan over the coming days. The first is the proposed cabinet reshuffle and the other the municipal elections.
"The appointments made in the new cabinet will tell you something about the sort of compromise that Pilot and the Congress high command have reached. From the sort of portfolios that his loyalists get, one will be able to get a fair idea. The second important event will be the municipal elections," said Sharma. "Around 36,000 new representatives are going to be elected. How well the Congress fares in them, in whose pockets of influence these wins are registered will also be things to note."
In his interaction with reporters on Tuesday morning, Gehlot repeatedly said not a single MLA from his party had deserted him over the past month during which they had stayed put in hotels.
"Not one," Gehlot responded, perhaps to remind people how he had single-handedly pulled off what his colleagues in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh could not.
Gehlot also knows this won't be the last attempt to topple his government, which still has three-and-a-half years to run. He told reporters his government will not just complete its full tenure but use the BJP's alleged horse-trading attempts to its advantage in the poll campaign of 2023. The stopwatch for Gehlot has begun to tick away afresh.