JAIPUR: Sachin Pilot, currently the only Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan, is angry at the prospect of more deputy CMs being appointed in the state. Reacting sharply to the speculation that CM Ashok Gehlot is keen to appoint more deputies, Pilot has hit back and quipped that the state can have five of them as long as the law and order problems can get resolved.
"If the law and order situation in the state can improve and the farm loan waiver can happen, then why only two? The state should have five deputy chief ministers," Sachin Pilot said when asked about Gehlot's plan to appoint more deputy chief ministers
Pilot's comments are seen as veiled criticism of the Chief Minister who also holds the home department portfolio. He further argued that: “ When in government, we should focus on fulfilling the promises that we have made to people and our priority should be to become more responsible to our voters.” Though Pilot says he is not aware of any move to induct more Deputy CMs, he claims only the party High Command can decide on such issues.
For weeks now, Congress sources have been buzzing that two new deputy CMs may be appointed from the Jat and Dalit communities as a counter to the BJP’s appointment of Jat leader Satish Poonia as party president in Rajasthan last month. In 1998 too, Gehlot has had two deputy CMs in Kamla Beniwal and Banwarilal Bairwa wherein Kamla represented the Jat faction and Bairwa was a representative of the SC community. Recently, Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan Reddy had appointed five Deputy CMs to maintain caste equations and the trend seems to be catching on in the Congress also.
While appointing more Deputy CMs could be a move to woo influential castes in the state, many say it is an attempt to cut down the stature of Sachin Pilot, who is presently the solitary deputy CM as well as chief of the Rajasthan State Congress Committee. However, Pilot has had a long history of tension with Gehlot and hardly ever misses a chance to embarrass Gehlot. Recently, Pilot had targeted the failure in securing justice for Pehlu Khan and claimed that the SIT appointed after those accused in Pehlu case were let off should have been formed much earlier – this was a clear attack on Gehlot who is also the Home Minister of the state.
Now, Pilot has also targeted the row that erupted within Congress leaders over the RCA elections. With Gehlot’s son Vaibhav being openly opposed by senior Congress leader Rameshwar Dudi in the RCA polls, Pilot says the unseemly row should have been sorted out through mutual discussions. He even went to the extent of wondering how the RCA rift will impact Congress chances in the two upcoming by-elections in the state as the internal bickering has given the opposition a handle to embarrass the ruling Congress in Rajasthan.
But Gehlot loyalists say that Pilot’s continuous comments are creating a negative image for the Congress party in the state. As a Gehlot supporter said : “Pilot’s repeated attacks around the law and order situation in the state and about the formation of SIT on Pehlu case are a clever attempt to attack Gehlot. By raising such questions, isn’t Pilot giving Congress opponents a chance to target the party?"
Gehlot and Pilot were locked in a bitter contest for the post of chief minister after assembly elections in Rajasthan last year. Though even Sonia Gandhi had advised both sides to remain united, Pilot-Gehlot and their loyalists still seem in no mood to stop attacking each other.