How the Rajasthan impasse is different from Madhya Pradesh saga
While Scindia is invested in the politics of MP and has a mass base in the state, his immediate aspirations did not revolve around seeking leadership in the state. In contrast, Pilot’s ambition appears state-centric at the moment. He was keen to become CM while he was leading the Congress in the elections.Updated: Jul 15, 2020 05:19 IST
The Congress’ decision to sack Sachin Pilot from both deputy chief ministership and state unit presidency of the party in Rajasthan — and Pilot’s open rebellion over the past few days — has thrown up comparisons with Madhya Pradesh.
In MP, Jyotiraditya Scindia — the party’s young and popular face — walked out in March, along with legislators loyal to him, and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), leading to the ouster of the Kamal Nath government, and the subsequent installation of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.
But there are significant differences between the two states. Here are three such variations:
1 Ashok Gehlot versus Kamal Nath
Rajasthan’s CM Ashok Gehlot is a political veteran, who is serving as CM for the third time. In contrast, Kamal Nath — while being a senior leader — was a newcomer to state politics, having been almost entirely in national politics. MP, for him, for much of his political career, was largely limited to his Lok Sabha constituency of Chindwara. He was resourceful, but lacked the ground experience, control over all regions of the state, and skills of political management.
Gehlot — as reflected in his current legislative strength — appears to have a firmer grasp over the party organisation. He has grown up in Rajasthan politics, from ground-up. His network in each constituency is formidable. Gehlot’s caste identity — he is a Mali, belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category — is seen as relatively neutral in the otherwise bitter caste-driven politics of the state; the scattered nature of his community across the state also gives him an edge. Gehlot also has good links with both the old guard and the younger leadership of the Congress in Delhi, which explains the prompt and unequivocal support he has got in this current battle.
2 The arithmetic question
The MP assembly election results of 2018 was fragmented. In the house of 230 members, Congress won 114 seats and the BJP trailed behind, just narrowly, 109 seats. The Congress won the support of smaller parties and independents to form the government under Kamal Nath.
But the narrow difference in seats left the BJP smelling an opportunity. This presented itself when Scindia — unhappy at how the party leadership has failed in ensuring what he saw as a just distribution of power in the state, and Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh’s attitude towards his group — decided to walk out with 22 legislators loyal to him. This reduced the size of the assembly, ensured the Nath government slid into a minority, and enabled the BJP to stake claim to form the government and prove its majority.
In Rajasthan, by contrast, while the Congress had just about reached the half-way mark — in the assembly of 200 members, it won 100 seats — it was able to secure the support of other parties and independents and bolster its strength. The BJP, by comparison, won 73 seats. This leaves the gap wider and makes it more challenging for the BJP to oust the Gehlot government. It also means that Pilot will need to muster up greater strength to be able to effect a change in government.
3 Differing ambitions of the young Turks
While Scindia is invested in the politics of MP and has a mass base in the state, his immediate aspirations did not revolve around seeking leadership in the state. The BJP, which already had Chouhan as a prominent leader and former CM, too, found it politically easier to get him back in the saddle. Scindia’s loyalists were accommodated in the state cabinet, but Scindia himself was elected to the Rajya Sabha. There is speculation that a greater national role is planned for him.
Also read: Numbers behind Rajasthan story
In contrast, Pilot’s ambition appears state-centric at the moment. He was keen to become CM while he was leading the Congress in the elections; he fought hard to ensure that it was him, rather than Gehlot, who got the seat; his camp’s demand over the past week has revolved around ensuring that he becomes CM. This, then, complicates the situation on two counts. One, it is not clear that Pilot has the numbers. But two, it is also not clear if the BJP will be willing to accommodate this ambition — given that it has a set of its own leaders in the state. It is instructive that the party has not made a single leader who has shifted from another party a CM in any state where it is in power. The closest example is Manipur, where N Biren Singh, a former Congressman is CM — but he had joined the party before the elections.
At the same time, there is a remarkable similarity in the two episodes — particularly with the regard to the inability of the Congress leadership in retaining its top talent. Whether Pilot goes the Scindia way, and whether Rajasthan goes the MP way, remains to be seen.