Ashok Gehlot vs Sachin Pilot: A brief history of face-offs between Congress' war horse and young buck - LiveNow24x7: Latest News, breaking news, 24/7 news,live news

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Monday, 20 July 2020

Ashok Gehlot vs Sachin Pilot: A brief history of face-offs between Congress' war horse and young buck

It is easy to get distracted by the breakneck speed of events that have occurred in Rajasthan over the past ten days.

First, the Rajasthan Police sent a notice to Sachin Pilot after they claimed to have stumbled on a plot to topple the Congress regime. Then, an upset Pilot, who rebelled against the Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot (all the while insisting he wouldn't join the BJP) was removed from the posts of Rajasthan deputy chief minister and state Congress.

And to top it all off, allegations of horse-trading were levelled against Pilot by Gehlot, and those in the rebel camp responded by accusing the chief minister of "deluding the public". Not to mention the public digs that Gehlot took at Pilot (without directly mentioning him), remarking that "being handsome and speaking good English" is not enough.

As the fate of Pilot and 18 other dissident Rajasthan MLAs challenging the disqualification notices issued to them by the state Assembly Speaker hangs in the balance, it is well worth examining how the Congress arrived at this juncture.

The seeds for the turf war in Rajasthan between Gehlot and Pilot were sown long ago.

Congress' rout in 2013

Indeed, in some ways, the story begins in 2013, when the Congress in Rajasthan, after winning just 21 of 200 seats in Assembly polls was at its nadir. Pilot at the time was given the task of reviving the grand old party's fortunes in Rajasthan with the assurance of non-intervention by Gehlot.

Gehlot, the old Congress warhorse with a long list of achievements — chief minister at 47, former PCC chief and the spearhead of multiple successful state campaigns — was consigned to the sidelines for the next couple of years in favour of Pilot, said to be among Rahul Gandhi's inner circle.

While Gehlot was drafted into a screening committee for the Punjab polls in 2016 and made a general-secretary in Delhi in 2017, Pilot delivered three crucial by-poll wins for the Congress in early 2018 and that too with record margins.

An uneasy peace 

Then, the troubles began. First, differences of opinion emerged over candidate selection. Nevertheless, Rajasthan stuck to the trend of voting out the incumbent government, and the Congress came to power. Subsequently, when the high command overlooked Pilot in favour of Gehlot for the chief minister's post, Pilot (and his supporters in the party) was said to be a little more than just peeved.

It took the intervention of Rahul Gandhi, the then Congress chief, to make peace between the veteran and the young buck. Rahul repeatedly met with Gehlot and Pilot before inviting them to his residence together to come to terms, part of which were said to be responsibilities being split between the two leaders and portfolios being "equally shared" by members of their camps.

That didn't happen.

Gehlot ended up with nine departments, including the key portfolios of home and finance, to just five for Pilot (who got public works, rural development, Panchayati Raj, science and technology and statistics).

Gehlot lashes out

Then in 2019, came the Lok Sabha polls. By this time,  Gehot had made it fairly evident his eagerness to kick off his son Vaibhav's career by fielding him from Jodhpur. However, Vaibhav was handily defeated by the BJP's Gajendra Singh Shekhawat by a huge margin of 2,74,440 votes.

The loss of the seat, which had become a prestige issue (Gehlot had held it five times from 1980 to 1999) did not sit well with the chief minister who had also been accused of being "obsessed" with his son.

Gehlot responded by lashing out at Pilot, reasoning that his deputy should bear responsibility for the Congress loss as he'd got Vaibhav the party ticket from there.

Gehlot later claimed his words were being taken "out of context", but Pilot refused to comment.

Pilot returns fire

In September 2019, the induction of six BSP MLAs into the party became the latest flashpoint between Gehlot and Pilot.

Soon afterwards, Pilot returned fire. Just days after the BJP slammed the Rajasthan government over law and order issues, the young Congress leader alleged that the situation in his state had "deteriorated" and that the government needed to do more. This was seen as little more than a thinly-veiled attack on his erstwhile boss, who held the home portfolio and caused quite a bit of embarrassment for the government.

By December, the rift had deepened. As the Rajasthan government celebrated completing a year in office, Pilot was, quite literally, nowhere to be seen. No posters or photographs of the then deputy chief minister went up and the achievement of his ministries did not even receive a mention in the booklet launched by the government.

“It would have been better if the works under my ministries were also showcased as part of the one-year celebrations of the government,” the Economic Times had then quoted a clearly upset Pilot as saying.

By 4 January, Pilot was openly lashing out at his own government over the deaths of 107 children in Kota's state-run JK Lon Hospital, saying the response from the administration "should have been more sensitive."

Pilot added that it was not a small incident and that accountability for the entire episode should be fixed. "As many as 107 children have died in the hospital. This is very painful. Our response to the entire matter was not satisfactory to some extent. The response could have been more sensitive and we should have been more compassionate," Pilot told reporters.

Whatever happens next, it seems that reconciliation between these two individuals is extremely unlikely.

With inputs from agencies


July 20, 2020 at 04:44PM

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