JAIPUR: In the unfolding drama in Rajasthan Congress on Monday over which side has the numbers, CM Ashok Gehlot claimed an edge over Sachin Pilot, who remained untraceable to media and political colleagues for most of the day.
As reality-versus-bravado played itself out, Gehlot’s men moved to luxury resort Fair Mount Hotel on the outskirts of the Pink City as they flashed victory signs.
They invited the media inside the Chief Minister’s residence to assert they were no less than 100 minus the pro-Pilot MLAs.
The Gehlot camp also included three senior party leaders whom the Congress leadership dispatched to the state capital to resolve the crisis following rebellion by Deputy CM Pilot.
Political watchers say though Pilot may claim 30 MLAs’ support, it is apparent that he has not more than 15 MLAs to his side. Many ministers considered Pilot loyalists, including Transport minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas and Women and Child Development Minister Mamta Bhupesh were seen on the Gehlot side.
“There is no threat to the government. We have more than 109 MLAs supporting us. Despite BJP’s attempts, the Congress government would complete its 5-year term,” Khachariawas said, advising his colleagues to videotape BJP leaders’ overtures and share them in public.
Some young MLAs such as Prashant Bairwa, Rohit Bohra and Danish Abrar also switched to the Gehlot camp on the crucial day.
The fear that gripped the Congress the previous day that Sachin Pilot would topple the government the way Jyotiraditya Scindia did in Madhya Pradesh, gave way to cautious optimism.
Gehlot is an old war horse, and observers say that unlike Scindia, Pilot’s position in Rajasthan is much weaker.
“Sindia had walked away with 22 MLAs and was able to topple the Kamal Nath government despite the fact that he did not hold any position in the state cabinet. But Pilot has been unable to wean away a substantial chunk of MLAs, despite holding two prominent positions in the state,” says Narayan Bareth, a political analyst.
Efforts by Gehlot ministers to contact disgruntled MLAs bore fruit as young leaders, reportedly affiliated to Pilot, not only attended the Congress meeting but also asserted they would “never leave Congress as it was part of their nature, blood and DNA.”
The Congress has kept its doors open for Pilot’s return. Many say Priyanka Gandhi is likely to offer a face-saving resolution where Pilot would stay in the party but probably lose his PCC post to allow Gehlot a free hand in political posting.
Priyanka may intervene to control damage
Many say Priyanka Gandhi is likely to offer a face-saving resolution where Pilot would stay in the party but probably lose his PCC post to allow Gehlot a free hand in political postings and Cabinet expansion.