Faction-ridden Rajasthan Congress turns out to be a tough balancing act for Ajay Maken
Besides getting the two camps to a dialogue, he will have to iron out the sharp differences that could erupt as the tricky task of cabinet expansion and reconstituting the state PCC is soon undertaken
JAIPUR: The AICC may have appointed Ajay Maken as the General Secretary In-charge of Rajasthan but his task in the faction-ridden state is far from easy. The new appointment in the wake of the revolt led by former Rajasthan Deputy CM Sachin Pilot reflects that the Congress High Command is serious about rectifying the crisis which had pushed the Ashok Gehlot government virtually to the brink of a collapse.
Maken has replaced Avinash Pandey as the party General Secretary In-charge of Rajasthan but this is only the first step towards resolving the rift within the state unit.
The way ahead for Ajay Maken in Rajasthan is full of thorns. Pande's exit is apparently a follow-up step taken in pursuance to the truce talks that were held between Sachin Pilot and Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi in Delhi after which he ended his rebellion and returned to Jaipur. According to sources in Congress, Pande’s removal was one of Pilot’s pressing demands as he viewed the former as a loyalist of CM Gehlot who was unsympathetic to his concerns.
Maken’s first challenge will be to revive a dialogue between Pilot and Gehlot. Though Congress president Sonia Gandhi had formed a committee for greater coordination between the two warring leaders in January, the committee had met just once since then. The inability to hold a proper dialogue between the Pilot and Gehlot camps was considered one of Pande’s big failures that led to his exit.
To overcome this difficulty, the party has also announced the new, high-powered panel of Ahmed Patel, Maken, and KC Venugopal to listen to and resolve the Pilot camps’ grievances raised at the meeting with top Congress leaders in Delhi on August 10. While Congress hopes this three-member committee will oversee and follow up the smooth resolution of recent issues in Rajasthan, the task for Maken is pretty tough.
Besides getting the two camps to a dialogue, he will have to iron out the sharp differences that could erupt as the tricky task of cabinet expansion and reconstituting the state PCC is soon undertaken. CM Gehlot had dropped three ministers from the Pilot camp at the height of the Pilot revolt. Now the Pilot camp members are keen to get back ministerial berths of their choice while Gehlot loyalists are determined to get more leaders from the pro-Gehlot MLAs to get into the ministry. Similarly, a number of key vacancies in the PCC are to be filled up and both the Pilot and Gehlot camps are lobbying hard to get their own favourites into those posts.
Once the current Assembly session ends, the reshuffle in the Gehlot ministry and the reconstitution of the state Congress unit are likely to happen in September. While Pilot is already spending much time in Delhi, CM Gehlot is also likely to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the national capital. There is also a buzz that pro-Gehlot MLAs may also go to Delhi to lobby with the High Command that party loyalists should get greater opportunities than rebel leaders who worked in tandem with BJP to push Rajasthan into a crisis. Clearly, Ajay Maken is bound to face a host of challenges that could test his political skills to their limit in the coming weeks.