Rahul Gandhi, Sachin Pilot held marathon meet amid Rajasthan political rumblings
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and former Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot had a marathon meeting on September 17 in which they discussed the Rajasthan situation and the larger goals of the party for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, people aware of the development said.
Incidentally, the meeting — the first exclusive between the two leaders this year — was held a day before Captain Amarinder Singh was asked to resign as Punjab chief minister by the Congress high command.
Pilot was the deputy chief minister and Rajasthan Congress president till July 2020 but lost both posts after he rebelled against chief minister Ashok Gehlot.
According to party functionaries, the issue of Pilot’s reinstatement in Rajasthan was one of the key issues that were discussed “at length” during the meeting. “But no major change in the Rajasthan government can be expected now. The party is now fully focused on the forthcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand,” said a senior leader on condition of anonymity.
These elections are due in the first half of 2022.
While Pilot and Gandhi remained unreachable for comments, two senior leaders maintained that the Congress will look at the 2024 objectives while it shuffles state units and governments.
“In Rahul Gandhi’s scheme of things, reshuffles in states will be done primarily to meet larger objectives in the 2024 elections. So, if any change happens and Pilot returns to the Rajasthan government, it has to be seen in the context of the Congress’ preparations for the next general election,” said another senior leader.
Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are the only states where Congress is in a direct contest against the BJP in a largely bipolar political order. The party needs to maximise its seats in these states to be in a position to defeat the Modi government as well as retain the leadership role in 2024.
“In this context”, a senior Congress functionary said, “Pilot has explained in the meeting why he needs to go back to Rajasthan. The two leaders also discussed that more than a year would be required for Pilot to work to prepare for the 2024 elections in the state.”
While Congress has replaced Captain Amarinder Singh with Charanjit Singh Channi as chief minister in Punjab, the ground situation in Rajasthan is different as Gehlot still has control over the party. It was evident when Pilot rebelled but Gehlot was able to save the government.
“Gehlot enjoys the support of more than 100 MLAs in the state,” said a state cabinet minister considered close to Gehlot.
(With inputs from Sachin Saini)