By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2020-07-15 13:44:48
Three distinct threads now appear to be emerging in the political turmoil in Rajasthan. While the Ashok Gehlot camp is moving fast to further discredit Sachin Pilot and his so-called co-conspirators, Pilot has reiterated that he is not joining the BJP and detractors are spreading rumours to spoil his relations with the Gandhis. The party, on the other hand, has taken the line that Pilot must discuss his problems in private with senior leaders.
But it would have been impossible for Gehlot to take such important decisions independently. Starting from Monday, when the resolution to take strict action against indisciplined members was passed in the CLP meeting to Tuesday when Pilot and two of his supporters were divested of their portfolios and the state party apparatus changed to remove all Pilot loyalists from important posts and again today when show-cause notices (as precursors to disqualification) are said to be on way to the rebels, all actions must have been approved by the party high command.
On a deeper analysis, one thinks that Gehlot managed to convince the party high command about two things. First, that Sachin Pilot was up to mischief and second, that if time was wasted in trying to mollify him, the state government will be toppled. Since political circles in Delhi were abuzz that Pilot was secretly negotiating with the BJP since April, the Congress high command did not outrightly dismiss Gehlot's allegations.
Then, when the Rajasthan SOG tapped the phones of state BJP leaders and found two of them talking about "the deputy chief minister" getting ambitious and planning something, the red flag within the party was well and truly raised. One thinks that this was the time when the party authorized Gehlot to take action as per the situation on the ground. In between, Pilot met Ahmad Patel and aired his grievances but nothing seems to have been done about them. The party did offer a deal to Pilot recently but it was rejected by him as being too little and too late.
When the party continued to ignore his grievances, Pilot and his supporters must have started planning for the final assault. But they would have waited for some more time as they did not have the numbers. 19 or 20 MLAs (the number which did not attend the CLP meet) cannot topple the government in Rajasthan and Pilot must have known this. So he would have waited to get some more MLAs to his side before taking the plunge.
But he had not reckoned with the wiles of Ashok Gehlot. To preempt any settlement between the party and Pilot and, more importantly, to force Pilot's hand, Gehlot got the SOG to issue a summons to him to appear before it to record his statement in the phone tapping case. Gehlot knew Pilot would take the notice as an affront and that is exactly what happened. Pilot revolted without having the numbers and now finds himself in a disadvantageous position.
The options before Pilot are limited and generally involve either climbing down from his position and making up with the Congress or playing second fiddle to the BJP. Since he has twice confirmed in the last two days that he is not joining the BJP (although politicians often say something and do the opposite), he can either float his own party or lick his wounds and remain in the Congress. Regional parties have little chance of succeeding in Rajasthan and, more importantly, Pilot is far more ambitious than to tie himself up permanently in state politics. Hence, it will be interesting to see his next course of action.