Gehlot’s replacement: This is for sure that Congress will get its new president. But the question remains will Rajasthan get a strong, acceptable and reliable chief minister popular in 36-kaum (communities) like Ashok Gehlot even though the state chief minister consented to hold Congress president’s post and give up chief ministership?
After Rahul Gandhi, Bharat Jodo Yatra’s Gandhian face, said that the new party chief would have to adhere to the ‘one man, one post principle and a commitment made in Congress’ Udaipur Chintan Shivir would be maintained in Kochi yesterday, Gehlot did a somersault saying, “No Congress president has ever been a chief minister and I agree to run for Congress president and step down as Rajasthan CM if he files his nomination papers”.
Whilst in Delhi before meeting Sonia Gandhi, Gehlot, who was the Congress interim president, when asked by reporters about the prospects of holding two posts, that of the chief minister and Congress president simultaneously, said, “Congress president’s poll is open to all, any one out of 9,000 delegates can file nomination whether the contestant is MP, MLA, minister, or chief minister. In this case he can be the president of the party and minister too. One man, one post formula is applicable in case of nomination made by the party high command. Office of profit funda would not be applied in this case.”
Yesterday in Kochi, Gehlot changed his tack and accepted the party’s Udaipur slogan, one man, one post, saying, “Let’s see what the situation unfolds in Rajasthan, what decision the Congress leadership takes, what the MLAs think… it all depends on this”.
A million dollar question is who will replace the three-time CM in Rajasthan? Whether the Congress high command accepts the recommendation of Gehlot for his successor? Or the leader from RaGa’s young brigade Sachin Pilot, the former deputy CM, gets a chance to rule the state for the next 14 months and lead the assembly elections slated in December 2023?
The Rajasthan’s Congress government has already faced turmoil in 2020 following alleged horse trading by Opposition BJP when the Pilot group defected. Will it be able to survive another such ordeal in its remaining tenure especially at a time when the toppling of governments has become a recurring phenomenon in other states?
Congress dilemma over Gehlot’s replacement
Sachin Pilot, who is the front runner in the race for the top post, has the blessings and the best wishes of RaGa, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and has got an overwhelming public response during his two years of frequent rallies.
Pilot also ensured the support of his Gurjar community in a few eastern districts of Rajasthan where he travelled far and wide. However, getting open support of 110 MLAs, who are with Gehlot at present, will be a big challenge for him. Rajasthan’s political history never favoured any candidate for CM post from the Gurjar and Meen castes.
If rumours and media hype is to be believed, the name of Dr. C P Joshi, Assembly Speaker, is emerging as the next CM. He might even get a recommendation from Gehlot. Had Dr. Joshi, a Brahimin, not lost the Nathdwara assembly poll in 2008, he would have been the CM of the state in 2008 as there was no other contender, and the Congress party had no substitute to Gehlot.
Joshi had to later take shelter under the AICC holding a few senior posts and was made in-charge of states. Joshi had also lost the 2014 LS poll from Jaipur-Rural seat. Even in the 2018 assembly election, Gehlot and Joshi had no parallel political equation.
As Rajasthan Cricket Association’s president, Joshi favoured Gehlot’s son Vaibhav in getting elected to the post. Vaibhav was defeated in his father’s bastion of the Jodhpur district in 2019 Lok Sabha polls by a BJP MP, G S Shekhawat, who is now a Union minister in the Modi Government. Joshi happens to be a man of principle, attitude, and discipline that may not attract all MLAs and keep their loyalty intact till the next assembly polls.
Gehlot’s probable names for recommendation could be of Education Minister Dr B D Kalla, a seasoned Congressman from Bikaner, and Parliamentary affairs and UDH Minister Shanti Dhariwal, who is the backbone of Gehlot camp in the assembly and home department. The Congress has an option to choose a candidate from the OBC or Dalit communities for the post.
Gehlot’s replacement, a crucial decision
This is going to be a very crucial question for the Congress high command whether to nominate Gehlot for the next party president, give him a privilege to keep dual posts till the state assembly elections in three states including Gujarat later this year, or give an opportunity to Pilot who has been waiting in the wings for all.
Before taking a decision on the vexed issue, the Congress has to bear in mind the outcome of its hasty decision to run the Punjab government after removal of Captain Amarinder Singh as chief minister as a result of which the party lost 2022 February assembly election to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Amidst all these developments, state BJP leaders have kept an eagle’s eye on the goings-on in the state and will swoop on the party the moment it falters in its political game and provides them an opportunity.