Rajasthan’s big battle isn’t Cong vs BJP; it’s Ashok Gehlot vs Sachin Pilot
Both Gehlot and Pilot have made comments against each other without taking each other’s names on several occasions. After the Lok Sabha election in 2019, the CM said Pilot should take responsibility for the rout – the party lost all 25 seats – and more for the loss of his son, Vaibhav Gehlot, in Jodhpur.Updated: Jan 17, 2020 11:39 IST
The friction between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot, the two most powerful leaders of Congress in Rajasthan, doesn’t seem to end.
After steering the party to Assembly victory from a phase when it was down to 21 seats in the 200-member house, Pilot was considered to be the natural claimant for the post of chief minister after December 2018 elections but that didn’t happen. There are many stories about how Gehlot managed to tilt the confidence of the Gandhi family in his favour, none of which could be verified.
But from the time Pilot took oath as Gehlot’s deputy to a year later, he has never considered himself as any less important in state’s politics and has caused consternation by his public utterances that put the government in the dock. When Gehlot’s cabinet took oath at Raj Bhavan, in a break from tradition, a chair was kept for Pilot, too, on the dais. Normally, only the Governor and the Chief Minister occupy this space.
Also Watch l ‘No point blaming others’: Sachin Pilot on infant’s deaths in Kota
Both Gehlot and Pilot have made comments against each other without taking each other’s names on several occasions. After the Lok Sabha election in 2019, the CM said Pilot should take responsibility for the rout – the party lost all 25 seats – and more for the loss of his son, Vaibhav Gehlot, in Jodhpur.
Pilot didn’t take this lying down. He said if the CM campaigned across the state instead of spending too much time in Jodhpur alone, the results could have been different.
On all other occasions, when Gehlot says something to stress that the people of the state and all the party MLAs wanted to see him as the CM, as if to rub it in, Pilot retorts in equal measure.
The interesting things is both have said on public forums that there’s no problem between the two of them almost the same number of times that they have targeted each other in veiled manner. Who can forget the photo-op at a Rahul Gandhi rally in Jaipur’s Ramlila Maidan in the campaign for the LS polls when the then party president made the two leaders hug each other?
Recently, after more than 100 infants died at a government hospital in Kota, Pilot lost no time in pulling his own government down, saying that the government should have been more humane in handling the crisis, obviously referring the CM’s statement in which he said deaths do happen. Pilot, who visited the hospital a day after health minister Raghu Sharma had been to Kota, got primetime air-time on national TV with his impromptu presser.
In an interview to HT following this event, Pilot repeated that he felt that the government could have handled the situation in a more compassionate manner, and said he felt he should share people’s pain when asked why he was the only Congress to visit the families that lost their infants.
A few days, Gehlot said there was no tradition of condolence meeting in houses where kids die. “If there isn’t such a tradition, then let’s make it,” Pilot said.
That the two leaders don’t get along is widely known in political circles. Even officers in the secretariat say the two don’t get into each other’s path but can’t resist retorting to each other. “The files of panchayat raj and rural development department, which is with Pilot, don’t go to the CMO and the CM has never held review of these departments even though he has reviewed almost all other departments,” said an officer of the principal secretary rank requesting anonymity.
Pilot’s lavish government bungalow is also talk of town. The 11, Civil Lines, address looks fortified with tall walls, much like the former CM Vasundhara Raje’s bungalow. People also talk about the money spent on refurbishing this bungalow.
Political experts feel the infighting is affecting the government. “Wherever there is uncertainty in an organisation, its working gets affected. The head of the party and the head of the government walking in two different paths often create confusion among the workers about whom to follow. This doesn’t bode well for any party,” says political analyst Narayan Bareth.
“People, who voted for the Congress, expect good governance and not infighting between its top leaders. If this doesn’t end soon, the party will pay a price,” Bareth added.
The BJP revels in this friction. It says there’s an Opposition within the government. “Two power centers cannot work in interest of the state. The CM is often running to Delhi to save his chair, and that affects governance in the state,” said BJP spokesperson Mukesh Pareek.
He said even though there’s no protocol for a deputy CM, Pilot always behaves like the CM. “A deputy CM is nothing more than a cabinet minister,” Pareek pointed out.
Before the municipal elections, the government brought a new rule that even unelected members could stand for the post of Mayor and head of municipalities. Pilot spoke against this on many occasions, saying this will lead to back-door entry into civic bodies. This forced the government to retrace its steps on that clause and remove it
After the acquittal of accused in the Pehlu Khan case, Pilot said if the special investigation team (SIT) was formed earlier, the acquittal may not have happened
On infant deaths in Kota, Pilot put his government in a spot when he called for fixing accountability for the deaths, targeting the health minister, who is considered to be a Gehlot man
After the Lok Sabha loss, Gehlot said Pilot should take responsibility for the defeat of his son Vaibhav from Jodhpur because he as party president had said with six MLAs in the constituency, the party will sail through.
Pilot has put his government in the dock over allegations by tourism minister Vishvendra Singh that officers of the department didn’t send files to him for approval. “If a senior minister has pointed out something, the government should act on it with immediate effect,” he said. Singh met Pilot on January 16