Rajasthan Congress in disarray; all guns trained on Ashok Gehlot for focussing on son's campaign, neglecting other seats

Rajasthan Congress, which faced an embarrassing defeat in the state in the Lok Sabha elections only months after winning the mandate in the Assembly polls, appears to be lacking leadership, with all guns trained on Ashok Gehlot.

Shraddha Chowdhury May 28, 2019 15:33:50 IST
Rajasthan Congress in disarray; all guns trained on Ashok Gehlot for focussing on son's campaign, neglecting other seats
  • The Congress lost all 25 seats in Rajasthan in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections

  • Ashok Gehlot has been accused of not paying enough attention to any constituency but Jodhpur, from where his son Vaibhav got a ticket

  • Rajasthan Congress ministers have demanded a detailed review of the election loss and want accountability fixed

"This is a historic win for the BJP and the credit goes to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Their leadership has put the nation first," former Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje said after the saffron party decimated the Congress in the state in the Lok Sabha elections, winning all 25 constituencies.

The leadership she describes appears missing in the Rajasthan Congress, which faced an embarrassing defeat in the state only months after winning the mandate in the Assembly elections (albeit by a narrow margin).

Amid a row over Congress president Rahul Gandhi reportedly insisting on resigning from the post, the turmoil in the Rajasthan Congress has come to the fore, with all guns trained on Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. At the meeting of the Congress Working Committee, at which Rahul offered to step down as the party chief, Gehlot was one of the three senior leaders — besides Kamal Nath and P Chidambaram — who Rahul accused of placing their sons above the party. His sister and Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also said that the entire top brass of the party had not supported Rahul and had left him alone to fight it out against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Rajasthan Congress in disarray all guns trained on Ashok Gehlot for focussing on sons campaign neglecting other seats

Ashok Gehlot with Sachin Pilot and Radhul Gandhi. Twitter@RahulGandhi

There have been reports of disarray in the Rajasthan Congress, with several ministers demanding that accountability be fixed for the colossal electoral defeat and action be taken against those responsible for the poll debacle in the state. The current state of political affairs in Rajasthan is reminiscent of the weeks leading to the Assembly elections, when there were reports of clashes between Gehlot's camp and that of current Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, who is also the president of Rajasthan Congress. Although Pilot had denied any infighting, the tension between the two sides was evident.

However, at the moment it is Gehlot who is at the received end of the party's ire for its abysmal performance in Rajasthan in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The party's complete decimation indicates that any gains it might have made over the months leading to Assembly elections were wiped out ahead of the parliamentary elections. It didn't come as much of a surprise when there were reports of Lalchand Kataria resigning from the Rajasthan Cabinet and two other state ministers demanding a detailed review of the factors that possibly led to the humiliating outcome of the Lok Sabha polls.

The sentiment of a lack of leadership in the state stems from the chief minister's complete focus on his son Vaibhav Gehlot's candidacy from the Jodhpur seat, where he came second to BJP's Gajendra Singh Shekhawat with 38.21 percent of the votes. Ashok Gehlot is now facing the accusation of spending far too much time unsuccessfully campaigning for his son and in the process, neglecting the other 24 constituencies of the state. Those looking to pin the blame on the 68-year-old politician have asserted that the chief minister should have paid equal attention to all the Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan, not merely the one from where his son was fielded.

Cooperative Minister Udai Lal Anjana and Food and Civil Supplies Minister Ramesh Meena are the two who raised the demand for a detailed review of the election defeat, highlighting the need to strengthen the party ahead of the local body elections scheduled for later this year. Anjana was also quoted as saying by The Indian Express that Gehlot would have worked more in other constituencies "had he been free". His thoughts on Gehlot's extensive campaigning for his son could not be clearer.

Despite multiple reports of discord in the Rajasthan Congress and allegations that senior leaders had insisted on Lok Sabha tickets for their sons, Gehlot dismissed all the fingers pointed at him as "internal matters of the party" and "out of context".

Pilot was given the responsibility of Rajasthan ahead of the Assembly polls. He had focussed the Congress campaign on reaching out to the youth and making a connection with the population at the grassroots. Now, it appears that this connection was lost over the weeks after the state elections, with Pilot taking the backseat as Gehlot's deputy in the state. This has led to speculation around the possible revival of factionalism in the party, with tussles between the sides backing Pilot and Gehlot.

The current discontent among Congress leaders and fears of another Pilot versus Gehlot episode, clubbed with the BJP sniffing around and grabbing on to any opportunity to attract a dissenting leader, leaves the Congress government in Rajasthan on the brink of a collapse.

The Lok Sabha election results from Rajasthan made one thing clear — party interest is supreme; family comes second. Lack of focus on this sentiment is what brought down the party in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the three states it had won in the December 2018 Assembly elections. The anti-incumbency wave that the Congress had ridden on to grab the assemblies is the same tide that drowned the party for failing to get the attention desired and vitally required from leaders at such a crucial stage of Indian politics.

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