As the much-anticipated meeting between Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot draws near, Gehlot has taken the opportunity to send a direct warning to his rival and fellow party member Sachin Pilot, with whom he has been engaged in a prolonged power struggle. In a recent interaction with the media, Gehlot made it clear that the Congress High Command isn’t one to yield to people’s tantrums.
“In my entire career, I have never come across a single instance where the high command of our party yielded to someone’s demands regarding a specific post. It is not the way the Congress operates. The notion that the high command approaches individuals and asks them which post they desire is nothing but fabricated tales. Let me assure you, the Congress high command holds significant strength and authority,” said Gehlot.
Amidst this backdrop, Kharge is slated to meet both Gehlot and Pilot separately in New Delhi on Monday. This meeting assumes considerable significance as it endeavors to address the prevailing tensions within the party and chart a course towards reconciliation and resolution.
The upcoming meeting follows shortly after Pilot’s “ultimatum” to the state government, in which he expressed that if his three demands were not fulfilled by the end of this month, he would initiate a state-wide agitation.
As part of his demands, Pilot has requested a thorough investigation into the alleged scams that occurred during the previous tenure of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
Kharge’s successful efforts in uniting Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar in Karnataka have prompted the party to consider implementing a similar approach in Rajasthan.
The ongoing Gehlot versus Pilot conflict brings the long-standing crisis within the Congress back into the spotlight, posing a significant challenge for the party in an election year.
Speculation arises that Pilot’s actions are strategically aimed at pressuring the Congress into action and potentially making a timely exit before the upcoming polls.
The Gehlot-Pilot feud initially emerged following the Congress’s victory in Rajasthan in 2018, with the chief minister’s position becoming a focal point of contention.
While initially accepting a subordinate role to the seasoned leader, Pilot revolted in 2020 amidst the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. After staging a prolonged protest near Delhi, he called off his strike when assured of a resolution by the Gandhis.
Despite the rebellion, the majority of over 100 MLAs remained loyal to Gehlot, making it challenging for Pilot to garner substantial support with no more than 20 MLAs on his side. This makes it difficult for the party to take sides in the conflict.
In a separate incident, around 70 MLAs resigned last year in opposition to Gehlot’s potential replacement as party president, which would have resulted in a change in leadership in Rajasthan, possibly favoring Pilot.
Earlier this year, Pilot embarked on an independent campaign for the Rajasthan polls following Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in the state, further highlighting the strained relations within the party.
With Gehlot consistently launching verbal attacks on his former deputy, it is evident that he will not back down easily in this power struggle.