The roots of the Rajasthan battle | HT Editorial
The Congress has failed to accommodate aspirationsUpdated: Jul 12, 2020 22:09 IST
The war between Rajasthan chief minister (CM) Ashok Gehlot, and deputy CM and state Congress chief, Sachin Pilot, is now out in the open, threatening the survival of the Congress government in the state. When the party won in 2017, Mr Pilot expected to be rewarded and made CM. But Mr Gehlot’s hold over the party organisation, and the desire of the party high command not to antagonise the “old guard” saw the CM post being awarded to Mr Gehlot. Since then — over the distribution of power in the government, appointments of bureaucrats, candidate selection in the Lok Sabha polls, and policy issues — both have been at loggerheads. But with a police summon to Mr Pilot for a case to do with destabilisation of the government (Mr Gehlot too has been summoned, but given that he is also home minister, this appears perfunctory); signs of rebellion by Mr Pilot and his loyalists; a public war of the words between the two factions; and speculation that the Mr Pilot is in touch with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the crisis within the Congress in Rajasthan has taken a new turn.
While Mr Gehlot should have been more consultative in his approach, and Mr Pilot more patient about his ambitions, the issue is not specific to a personality clash between the two leaders. It is, yet again, evidence of the inability of the Congress leadership in Delhi to provide guidance, take decisions, manage conflicts, and accommodate aspirations. The party has not yet had a review of the reasons for its loss in two consecutive national elections. There remains an acute crisis of leadership at the top, with groups calling for the return of Rahul Gandhi as president, even as Mr Gandhi remains reluctant. Other voices calling for the democratisation of the organisation — through an independent electoral process to choose a new president and a new Congress Working Committee — are not being heard.
In this backdrop, it is but natural that younger leaders will seek opportunities to sustain their political lives and grow, instead of merely waiting for the leadership to resolve its issues. What is happening in Jaipur is exactly what happened in Bhopal earlier this year. The party lost Jyotiraditya Scindia, who had been raising issues within internal forums for over a year but to no avail; the net impact — the Congress lost its government in Madhya Pradesh. Irrespective of whether the Rajasthan government survives, the Congress should be alarmed at its rapidly depleting political capital, its internal mismanagement, and the fury of some of its brightest, young political stars.