Rajasthan Row Changes Congress President Race: Gehlot Doubtful, 3 Other Fallouts
There is now a trust deficit regarding Ashok Gehlot, not just due to the MLAs rebellion but the manner it was done.
The political crisis in the Rajasthan Congress is likely to completely change the race for the next Congress president. The reason for this is that Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, till now considered the front-runner for the party chief's post, is now at the centre of the turmoil in the state.
Here are four things that could happen.
1. Ashok Gehlot May No Longer Be in the Race to Be Congress Chief
There is a good chance that Rajasthan chief minister Gehlot may no longer be in the race to be the next Congress president. There are two reasons for this.
First, till now he was considered the candidate who has the trust, if not a tacit backing, of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. Though they have publicly said they would remain neutral, it is said that it was Sonia Gandhi who convinced Gehlot to contest the presidential election.
With over 90 MLAs in Rajasthan refusing the accept Sachin Pilot as the next CM, there are suspicions that Gehlot may be behind this 'rebellion'.
There may be some justification for Gehlot's stand - in today's politics, a CM's post has more concrete powers while being Congress president means holding all the responsibility without much real influence.
Whatever be the justification, the damage is now done.
More than their opposition to Pilot, it is the MLAs' refusal to meet the high command's representatives Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken that is being seen as an insult. Ajay Maken has already termed the MLAs' absence as 'indiscipline'.
What is adding to the trust deficit regarding Gehlot is that this crisis is being seen as harming Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Given this trust deficit, it is unlikely that the will be supported as the next party president.
Even if Gehlot is blameless in the entire matter, the instability in Rajasthan may make it difficult for him to move to Delhi as party president.
Though the party high command may still allow Gehlot to remain Chief Minister till 2023, it would be difficult to address the trust deficit.
2. Increased Clamour for Rahul Gandhi to Become Party President
The Rajasthan fiasco could lead to another round of leaders urging Rahul Gandhi to file his nomination for party president.
The argument being given after Gehlot's alleged power play in Rajasthan is that "no one except the Gandhis can be trusted". This is further beign cited to demand Rahul Gandhi's return.
However, Gandhi has refused to take over the responsibility and it remains to be seen whether he will change his mind or not.
3. Search for Another Non-Gandhi Face
If Rahul Gandhi refuses, then the party may look for another leader outside the Gandhi family to take over as party chief.
There are a number of names doing the rounds - Digvijaya Singh, Mukul Wasnik, Kamal Nath, Kumari Selja, Mallikarjun Kharge, Sushil Kumar Shinde, to name a few.
Then there is Shashi Tharoor, who has expressed his interest to contest the party chief's election. Though it is unlikely that Tharoor would become the 'officially' backed nominee.
The problem with any non-Gandhi leader other than Gehlot taking over, is that such a leader would always be considered a rubber stamp by some sections.
4. The Sachin Pilot question
With Gehlot or someone supported by him almost certain to remain at the helm of the Congress government in Rajasthan, it is clear that Sachin Pilot may find things difficult in the state unit.
Since he was promised the CM's chair in 2018, he may have to be accommodated in some way. Problem for the Congress is that there are hardly any positions that come even remotely close to CM.
At most he can be made a working president of the party under whoever becomes party chief. Being made party president is another, though unlikely, option.
If the Congress leadership wants to cut Gehlot to size a bit, it could send Pilot back as the PCC chief and axe Gehlot loyalist Govind Dotasara.
Whether Pilot would agree to any of these arrangements or leave the party, is anyone's guess.
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