JAIPUR: While the tussle between chief minister Ashok Gehlot and deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot rages on, the party has begun the search for a new Congress president in Rajasthan.
A comment by Avinash Pande, the General Secretary Incharge, on the need for a full-time PCC Chief in the state following his meeting with Sonia Gandhi has kicked off intense speculation in the state.
Pandey met the AICC president at her home on Friday and said that the demand of party workers in the state for a full-time state President will soon be addressed by the party high command.
Pilot has been the PCC chief for over five years now and under his leadership, the Congress returned to power in Rajasthan. Pilot also serves as the deputy chief minister of the state.
However, after Sonia Gandhi took charge as the interim working president, there has been much talk of enforcing the ‘one man, one post’ principle in the party. Although Pilot has recently been calling several special meets for the upcoming municipal elections in Rajasthan, political circles are abuzz over the issue after Pandey's comments.
Sources say that though Pilot’s tenure was completed several months ago, the Congress high command did not want to move him from the post of PCC chief as the victory in the state elections was soon followed by the Lok Sabha polls.
In choosing the new PCC chief, social engineering considerations are being considered a key factor and the buzz is that a leader from either the influential Jat community or a Brahmin leader may get the nod.
As Pilot comes from the OBC category, it's likely that his replacement may also be an OBC leader in which case the Jat leaders who also belong to OBC group are likely to be the final choice as panchayat and local body elections are coming up in the state.
Young leaders who may be acceptable to both the Gehlot and Pilot camps could get a chance to lead the state Congress. The names being most widely discussed are Health Minister Raghu Sharma and Agriculture Minister Lalchand Kataria.
While Brahmin leader Raghu Sharma has an easy equation with both camps, Jat leader Kataria is considered a close aide of Gehlot and may be opposed by the Pilot lobby. Two other names doing the rounds are those of Ramesh Meena and Uday Lal Anjana who are both regarded as Pilot loyalists.
Given the Gehlot-Pilot rift, Congress has not been able to make political appointments in crucial boards and corporations even eight months after returning to power in Rajasthan.
Most observers say that these appointments are pending because the CM and his deputy keep countering the names that the other one offers; if Pilot is replaced as PCC chief, the Gehlot camp could get a free hand. But all these pending posts can be filled only after a PCC President is chosen and that decision is now likely to be taken at the earliest.