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After electing president, Congress likely to shift focus to Gehlot-Pilot power tussle in Rajasthan

Gehlot has projected perception of continuity ever since the rebellion, while Pilot is also back in action
Last Updated 16 October 2022, 16:09 IST

It's nearly two weeks since Congress general secretary KC Venugopal asserted that Congress president Sonia Gandhi would soon decide on the fate of the Rajasthan chief minister. But the Congress high command has gone silent, focussing instead on the ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra, the conclusion of the Congress presidential polls and preparation for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections.

Sources said the Congress high command could turn its attention to the affairs of its Rajasthan unit once the party's new president gets elected on October 19. However, in Rajasthan, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has hit the accelerator. His rival, former deputy CM Sachin Pilot, is also busy reaching out to party workers across the state.

Late last month, 92 Congress MLAs in Rajasthan did not attend an official legislature party meeting convened to pass a resolution authorising the Congress chief to appoint a successor to Gehlot. The Rajasthan CM was then about to contest the Congress presidential election. The MLAs participated in a parallel meeting at Gehlot loyalist Shanti Dhariwal's residence in Jaipur. The three Gehlot loyalists - ministers Dhariwal and Mahesh Joshi and party leader Dharmendra Rathore - have replied to the show-cause notice issued by the Congress disciplinary committee over the rebellion. The disciplinary committee will likely hold its meeting soon to discuss further steps in the matter.

Meanwhile, Gehlot has been frenetically touring the state, holding meetings, and expanding the scope of existing social welfare measures. Gehlot has spoken repeatedly about newly launched welfare schemes, such as the Indira Gandhi urban employment guarantee scheme and added another 642 kitchens to the Indira Rasoi (canteen) scheme. On Sunday, the state government launched the 'Rajiv Gandhi rural Olympics. Gehlot, the party's senior poll observer for Gujarat, will be in Gujarat on October 17 and 18 to review the Congress poll preparedness.

Gehlot has projected perception of continuity ever since the rebellion. The big billboards in the state capital and newspaper advertisements of the recent investment summit had Gehlot all over them. The conference caught national attention when Gehlot shared the stage with industrialist Gautam Adani. Over the past couple of weeks, Gehlot has monitored anti-corruption cases and instructed secretaries of all departments to speed up the implementation of the 2022-23 budgetary announcements. He told the media that the 2023-24 budget would be dedicated to the youth and urged people to send their suggestions to him directly.

On the other hand, Pilot is also back in action. He has been visiting districts, meeting supporters, particularly the youth workers and addressing gatherings. Pilot extensively toured Jhalawar and Kota districts and drew crowds. Interestingly, while Jhalawar is the bastion of Vasundhara Raje, Kota is the home district of Congress leader Shanti Dhariwal. In his meetings, Pilot thanked his supporters and party workers for their support and struggle between 2014-2018, when he was the president of the state Congress.

Party sources say Gehlot is close to Mallikarjun Kharge, likely to be the next president of the party, and joined the Bharat Jodo Yatra on several occasions, including at the rally in Bellary on Saturday, while the Gandhis backed Pilot. We shall soon know if the Congress high command will risk rocking the boat in Rajasthan by replacing Gehlot.

(The writer is a senior journalist based in Rajasthan)

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(Published 16 October 2022, 16:09 IST)

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