NEW DELHI: Was there a conspiracy brewing within the Congress to make Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot lose the Congress presidential poll following the recent revolt against the high command in the state? Some of Gehlot’s loyalists and G-23 members of the Congress think so.
It was being alleged that following the rebellion in Rajasthan against the party’s diktat to make Gehlot contest the presidential poll and step down as Chief Minister, the coterie close to the leadership was looking at an opportunity to hit back and make him lose the election by subtly backing Digvijaya Singh or any other candidate. It was claimed that Gehlot got a whiff of the “plan” and “dodged the bullet.”
The wily desert fox also gently dared the high command (meaning the Gandhis) to sack him. Taking full “moral responsibility” for the rebellion against the leadership, Gehlot “apologised” to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and told the media that the “party president will decide if I am to remain Chief Minister.”
With Assembly elections only a year away, it could become tricky for the Congress leadership to force Gehlot out at this juncture. Also, with the majority of MLAs backing Gehlot, the party leadership “will not be able to touch him immediately,” party insiders indicated. Of the 108 Congress MLAs in Rajasthan, over 80 have come out in open support of Gehlot. “Any move to oust Gehlot forcibly would only damage the Congress,” a senior party leader said.
Sources revealed that following Gehlot’s refusal to toe the party line, the rift between him and the leadership had only grown wider. “He should ready himself for several pinpricks to be engineered from Delhi,” a senior party leader said.
However, not merely was the Congress leadership left with egg on its face following the Rajasthan fiasco but the fault lines between Gehlot and Sachin Pilot camps have deepened. “This is not going to augur well for the party in the Assembly polls,” sources said.
Besides the conspiracy allegation, senior leaders pointed out that Gehlot’s defiance had yet again exposed the inability of the leadership to control its functionaries. “Let’s face it, the party is imploding under the Gandhis,” the senior leader said. The party collapsed in Goa after eight of its 11 MLAs joined the BJP and on Tuesday the state unit working president of poll-bound Himachal Pradesh joined the BJP.
Top Congress leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, R.P.N. Singh, Jitin Prasada, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Capt. Amarinder Singh, Kuldeep Bishnoi and Sunil Jakhar have walked out of the party. Most of them have switched allegiance to the BJP.