Gehlot to stay?
From all accounts it doesn’t look like the Congress is going to change the Rajasthan Chief Minister before the next Assembly elections. The fear is that if they do change Gehlot then he might split the party and topple the government. As a senior Congress leader put it, it’s better to go to the polls with a sitting government than a divided one. Where does that leave Sachin Pilot, who has been assured of a regime change in his favour? The other question also is that does Pilot want the crown of thorns so late in the day when the polls are less than a year away? In fact Pilot’s best bet would be to remain in the Congress, for the BJP has far too many contenders already and he doesn’t have the time or perhaps even the funds to float his own outfit. Besides, Rajasthan remains a two-horse state, between the BJP and the Congress. Pilot is young and has time on his side; plus he also seems to have the blessings of the Gandhi siblings. So if Gehlot lives to fight another election, then, as Rasheed Kidwai pointed out, he will be the second Congress CM to defy the Gandhis and remain in office after Devraj Urs. (Urs remained in office as Karnataka CM after defying Indira Gandhi and moving to the Congress-S).

There are nine state elections slated for the year 2023, and if J&K polls are held this year then that number goes to 10. The first state to go to the polls is Karnataka and that promises to be a face-off between Congress and the BJP, with the JD(S) playing a strong supporting role. But if the Congress manages to wrest the state away (political indications are currently in favour of a Congress win) then it would be a morale booster for the party but also for Kharge’s presidency and for Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra that spent a fair amount of time in the state. Also this would be the mood the Congress takes to the three big elections at year end in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, which are also labelled as the semi-finals before the 2024 Lok Sabha. In all three there is a straight fight between the Congress and the BJP, with the former hopeful of winning Chhattisgarh and the party also fancies its chances in MP. However, as 2018 had shown, winning these states is no indication that the Congress will sweep the Lok Sabha, or even better its numbers to reach three digits in the 2024 polls. As things stand, there is no state where the Congress is in a position to gain seats and better its earlier tally. Instead it is losing ground in states like Telangana and Punjab. As a side note, Telangana goes to polls in 2023 as well but the fight seems to be between KCR and the BJP instead of the Congress. And so, while the Congress should celebrate every win it gets, it should also be cautious about the ones that are getting away.