Explained: Congress’ new crisis as over 80 MLAs from Team Gehlot resign in Rajasthan

Over 80 MLAs in Rajasthan owing allegiance to Ashok Gehlot submitted their resignation papers to Assembly Speaker CP Joshi. The move is being perceived as the veteran leader's stand against the party high command's move to make Sachin Pilot his heir apparent in the state

FP Explainers September 26, 2022 09:31:56 IST
Explained: Congress’ new crisis as over 80 MLAs from Team Gehlot resign in Rajasthan

Rajasthan's Ashok Gehlot has been reluctant to hand over his chief minister's post to Sachin Pilot. PTI

The crises in the Congress just don’t end. On Sunday night, the Grand Old Party faced a new predicament when 82 MLAs — loyalists to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot — submitted their resignations to Assembly Speaker CP Joshi.

The reason for their resignations? The buzz is that the MLAs are upset that rebel Sachin Pilot may succeed Gehlot as Rajasthan chief minister if he becomes the party’s national president.

What exactly went down on Sunday night? What prompted the MLAs to resign? Is this a power play by the veteran Ashok Gehlot? Will Pilot continue to remain as chief minister-in-waiting?

We decode the political situation in Rajasthan and the series of events that led to the MLAs’ mass resignations to Speaker CP Joshi.

Sunday night drama

Several MLAs — over 80 of them — who owe allegiance to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot headed to Speaker CP Joshi’s home after a long meeting in the evening at Minister Shanti Dhariwal’s residence, saying they were resigning as MLAs.

All this while, at the chief minister’s home, Gehlot and Congress observers Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken waited for all legislators to arrive for the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting.

Speaking to the media later, the MLAs said, “We have submitted our resignation and are now going home. The MLAs want that any decision on the chief minister should be taken only after the election of the party’s national president,” Minister Govind Ram Meghwal said.

The loyalists said the views of MLAs should be taken into account.

“Later, whatever decision taken by the high command will be accepted,” independent MLA Babulal Nagar said.

Some Gehlot loyalists told the media that they believed that the next chief minister should be someone who was instrumental in saving the government during the 2020 crisis and not anyone involved in the bid to topple it, a veiled reference to Sachin Pilot.

Govind Ram Meghwal said Gehlot can shoulder both roles, that of the chief minister as well as the party’s national president and that if Gehlot didn’t remain chief minister, the party would face problems in winning the next Assembly elections.

“If a decision is not taken keeping the MLAs’ sentiments in mind, the government will be in danger,” independent legislator and advisor to the chief minister Sanyam Lodha told news agency PTI.

It has been reported that the Gehlot loyalists then put forth three conditions to the AICC observers on the situation — they wanted the decision on the next chief to be left till after the Congress organisational election and stressed that Gehlot should have a say in picking his successor who should be someone who stood by the veteran leader during the rebellion by Pilot supporters in 2020.

Asked to react to the crisis triggered by his ‘MLAs’, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot reportedly told the central leadership that it was not “in his hands.”

According to an NDTV report, Gehlot spoke to KC Venugopal, a Congress leader close to the leadership, and said, “Nothing is in my hands. The MLAs are angry.”

The back story

What prompted the Sunday night drama?

The entire issue has unfolded over the Congress presidential elections and the ‘One man one post’ maxim.

Gehlot, who is rumoured to be in the running for the post of Congress chief against Shashi Tharoor in the 17 October race, has been reluctant to give up his chief minister’s post and, especially to Sachin Pilot.

Also read: Congress President Poll: Ashok Gehlot in no mood to quit Rajasthan CM post? At least, his tweets suggest so!

Gehlot is expected to quit as the chief minister of Rajasthan if he wins the election to the post of the Congress national president, as the party has a ‘one-man one-post’ policy.

Earlier, Gehlot had said that he will contest for the post of party president if the Congress leadership asks him to do so. However, he had also said that he is fulfilling the responsibility of chief minister and that he would “continue to do so”. While this was seen as his intent to continue to hold the post of chief minister should he be elected the Congress’ national president, Gandhi’s insistence on the ‘one person, one vote’ rule highlights that this will not be allowed.

The mass resignations on Sunday can be perceived as Gehlot’s show of strength to the Congress high command. With this move, the veteran Rajasthan leader has indicated to the Congress leadership that he is no pushover and that he still holds sway in the state.

The Sunday crisis also shows that the Rajasthan unit is still divided between Pilot and Gehlot and that their rivalry is nowhere close to being buried.

Gehlot vs Pilot rivalry

Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot have been in a long-running feud that dates back to the 2018 Assembly elections.

Both leaders were vying for the chief minister’s post and at the time, the high command chose Gehlot for the top post for the third time while Pilot was made his deputy.

In 2019, both the leaders indulged in a war of words following the Lok Sabha election in 2019 where the party lost all 25 seats in the state. Gehlot had then said Pilot should take responsibility for his son Vaibhav’s defeat in Jodhpur.

Gehlot had lashed out at Pilot, saying, “Sachin Pilot said we will win Jodhpur with comfortable margin as we have six MLAs in the constituency. Our campaign was good. I feel he (Sachin Pilot) should own responsibility for that seat (Jodhpur) at least.”

Pilot was then quoted by Hindustan Times as saying that if the chief minister campaigned across the state instead of spending too much time in Jodhpur alone, the results could have been different.

In July, 2020, Sachin Pilot took a bid to topple the Gehlot government. Claiming that he had support of 30 MLAs in a 200 members’ Assembly where the Congress had total 107 MLAs along with the support of 13 independent MLAs, Pilot went on a strike.

It was also reported that Pilot had received support of 72 BJP MLAs at the time. However, Rahul Gandhi managed to bring the situation under control, but ties between the two leaders remained tenuous.

Since then, there have been several instances of mudslinging between Gehlot and Pilot. The most recent being the case of Indra Meghawal, the Dalit boy who was beaten to death by his teacher for drinking water from a pitcher exclusively kept for the upper caste students.

With inputs from agencies

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