State chief post one of many sticking points for Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot
Pilot has been the Rajasthan Congress president since January 2014 and there’s talk of appointing someone else in that position. Leaders close to Pilot said he wants his supporter in the saddle or an important portfolio in the state government.Updated: Jul 13, 2020 04:20 IST
The differences between Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot erupted soon after the 2018 assembly elections results that led to the ouster of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from the seat of power, according to political experts.
Since then, the two leaders have had differences on several issues. The latest trigger was the post of the state Congress chief, said leaders close to both camps, on condition of anonymity.
Pilot has been the Rajasthan Congress president since January 2014 and there’s talk of appointing someone else in that position. Leaders close to Pilot said he wants his supporter in the saddle or an important portfolio in the state government.
At present, Pilot holds the portfolios of Public Works Department. Rural Development & Panchayati Raj., Science & Technology, and Statistics
The buzz in the state bureaucratic circles is that Pilot has had differences with bureaucrats in his departments, especially in the public works department (PWD), where some key officers are not considered close to Pilot.
After the election results, while Pilot’s loyalists credited him for the victory, the party high command made Gehlot the chief minister and Pilot the deputy chief minister .
Before the municipal elections in October 2019, the state introduced a rule that even unelected members could stand for the post of mayor and head of municipalities. Pilot spoke against the move on many occasions, saying this will lead to “back-door entry” into civic bodies. Finally, the decision was rolled back.
On the death of 107 of infants in Kota due to an alleged shortage of beds and lack of facilities in January this year, Pilot put his government in a spot, calling for fixing accountability. The health minister, Raghu Sharma, is considered a Gehlot loyalist.
And after the Congress’s rout in the Lok Sabha elections in Rajasthan — the party won none of the 25 seats — Gehlot said Pilot should take responsibility for the defeat of his son, Vaibhav Gehlot, from Jodhpur because he was the party president.
Pilot also appeared to be critical of the government after the accused in the Pehlu Khan lynching case were acquitted in August 2019. He said had the Congress government formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) earlier, the outcome would have been different.
The government formed the SIT to probe the mob lynching of Khan on the suspicion of cow smuggling in April 2017, when the BJP government was in power.
Political commentator Prakash Bhandari said the party has long ignored the crisis between its two leaders. Bhandari said the leadership should have sent KC Venugopal, general secretary in charge of organisation, to settle the issue. “He was the one who brokered peace between them earlier and got them on one table. At this time, when differences between its two leaders are threatening to pull down the government, the party should have used him.”