The Gandhis’ relationship with Gehlot has been see-sawing.
The animosity between Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and former Deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot may have been put in the backburner after both the leaders shared warm statements for each other just before the announcement of the ticket distribution list.
However, the Gandhis’ relationship with Gehlot has been see-sawing, with some citing it to be just a “working relationship”.
People close to both the leaders, however, say that such a cordial phase is not expected to end until elections. Party leaders suggest that Gehlot, however, will play all his cards to remain in power if the Congress returns to power in the state. The question, though, is will Gehlot get enough winning seats in his share (against Pilot’s share) to have leverage to control the Congress in the state post the elections? Or even if he does, will he be able to overwrite the directives of the high command by taking charge of legislators afterwards? Finally, will the legislators listen to Gehlot since the Gandhis have become more powerful after winning the Karnataka elections while also expecting a win in other states such as Madhya Pradesh?
Therefore, taking into account his alleged “misadventure” of going against the Gandhis, Gehlot might not be liked by the high command to continue as the chief minister if the Congress wins the elections. What has made things more complex for Gehlot is that in recent times, Pilot’s repentance is seen to have made him close to the Gandhis again.
Such an equation with them is seen to have made him less repulsive (against Gehlot) and reliant on them. To add to it, Pilot feels complacent that Gehlot waylaid himself from Gandhis (he refused to submit to a one-line resolution proposed by Gandhis) when the whole organisational structure was to be entrusted to him by lifting Gehlot to the position of the party president. Now the gap has widened to an extent, according to party insiders, where things are difficult to move in Gehlot’s favour.
In a press conference, Gehlot said that he has not objected to even a single legislator who had gone to Manesar (legislators who had rallied behind Pilot in rebellion against Gehlot). Observers claim such a statement could be an assertion from him that since he has not objected to such and such candidates, the high command and Pilot should also not object to his candidates.
He had, according to insiders, pushed hard to retain the tickets for his loyalists, even those who stood against the high command and front-ran Gehlot’s rebellion last year, like Mahesh Joshi, Shanti Dhariwal etc.
However, according to a senior leader, they will be denied tickets. Gehlot has, though without any crucial repercussions, stood for himself and his politics rather than complying with the directives of the high command which, some leaders claim, has resulted in him being in a political grey zone as Gehlot is finding it difficult to walk up to Gandhis in the way he used to.
There is an assumption among several political analysts that the party will not be able to perform well (if tickets are not given according to surveys), reckoning the current mood of people which is against a major chunk of Congress’ sitting MLAs, as there are whispers within the party that Gehlot could hold firm to defend his loyalists.
Political pundits suggest that Gehlot is instinctively too busy in playing political games and thereby always in pursuit of preparing counter-measures to shoot down any challenges thrown at him in order to permanently stick in his chief ministerial position.