‘A lot will depend on Vasundhara Raje as she is unhappy and to stay relevant, she may help the Congress win the elections’.
After independent surveys were disregarded by the Congress during the distribution of seats for the Rajasthan Assembly elections, some political pundits feel that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s overwhelming influence during the process of seat distribution could diminish the electoral base of the Congress and this may result in the party failing to retain the government in the upcoming elections.
Moreover, a source said, the “unparalleled authority” of Gehlot in the state is perceived to be rooted in Sachin Pilot’s rebellion. Gehlot’s acts not only culminated in Pilot’s loss of face, but also gave leeway to Gehlot to do whatever he wanted while facing no accountability. Sources said Gehlot consolidated his position and further lured several legislators to his side by promising to offer them tickets so that they can again contest in this year’s elections. A source said, “Till Pilot was a parallel force before the rebellion, everything was in check. But when he (Pilot) tried to topple the Congress government, Gehlot knew that he will have no moral authority to counter him in any way. Therefore, political power which was oscillating between the two leaders immediately swung towards Gehlot.”
It is widely believed that a majority of the incumbent legislators would lose the elections. It is also widely believed that such a regressive step was knowingly taken by Gehlot putting the party prospects at risk. However, the silver lining that the party finds in is in the remaining lot. Those who had lost their respective seats in the last Assembly elections are believed to be performing well and, leaders suggest, such candidates who are in majority can build momentum for the party as there is no anti-incumbency on such seats. Congress had won 99 seats out of the 200 in the last Assembly elections.
Moreover, sources said the surprising element was Ajay Maken. Helming the Congress’ second most powerful position (Treasurer), he was expected to corner Gehlot when it comes to candidate selection, in a way that he would try to sideline Gehlot’s loyalists. But, according to leaders privy to the development, during the central election committee meetings, there may have been a settlement between the two where Gehlot has been able to convince Maken to forget about the past. Maken’s animosity towards Gehlot had cropped up during Gehlot’s rebellion in the state against the high command. In the course of events, Maken was sent as an intermediary to settle the issue. However, Gehlot had chosen his own course resulting in the humiliating return of the two observers Malikarjun Kharge and Maken. The two had to go back without performing the delegated job and without meeting Gehlot.
As Congress’ chances to be victorious in the coming elections seem difficult, there is another way the Congress fancies by which it could repeat its government. In the din of BJP’s infighting, Congress sees former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje as a “golden egg laying chicken” who can reverse Gehlot’s mistakes by just continuing to be unhappy with the saffron party’s leadership. A person privy to the developments said, “If the BJP wins even after sidelining her, it may to a large extent end Raje’s political career and therefore she wouldn’t want that. For her to remain relevant, the BJP should lose, which will make the BJP leadership realise how important she is. And if that happens, she would want to help Congress win the upcoming elections.” He further added, “A lot will depend on Vasundhara Raje this time. She isn’t much happy with the decisions taken by the saffron party’s leadership. There have been long-standing efforts from the central leadership to sideline Raje and now finally, they might have found out a way. Thereby Vasundhara is, for now and up until elections, a central person in Rajasthan politics. Her moves will define which side the majority will fall.”