Sachin Pilot is running out of options even as Gehlot continues to turn the screws on him and his supporters
Rebel Congress leader Sachin Pilot has said that “truth can be troubled but not defeated.” Here are some truths, and the sooner he acknowledges them the better it will be for him and his loyalists who have risked their political career for his sake.
Truth Number One: Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot will never accept him back in the government. The Rajasthan Chief Minister called Pilot a “traitor”. He remarked that good looks and polished English cannot be grounds to demand a high political position. He stated that people have to go through the grind first and attain a stature to stake claims. And, he revealed that things were so bad between Pilot and him that the two had not spoken to each other for over a year. Gehlot is determined to keep him out of Rajasthan’s politics is evident from the fact that, even as a team of observers sent by the Congress high command sought to keep a window open for Pilot, Gehlot did not restrain himself and continued to condemn his former deputy. His recent remark that he would “hug” Pilot if he returned, should be taken with a load of salt.
It would appear to make sense for Pilot to join the BJP. But there are problems, one of which he has himself created by announcing that he would not join the BJP.
Truth Number Two: The Congress high command — Sonia Gandhi–Rahul Gandhi–Priyanka Vadra — will not antagonize Gehlot. If these leaders push too hard and seek to rehabilitate Pilot in the State, they will anger Gehlot and his formidable band of supporters, leading to an even bigger crisis for the party. Given that Pilot has made it clear that he would not at any cost work under Gehlot’s leadership, and Gehlot will not relinquish his post so long as he commands the numbers, there is little room for a rapprochement.
Truth Number Three: The high command could give Pilot a face-saver by offering him a position in the party’s hierarchy — even the post of a national working president. That would suit Gehlot fine since it would remove Pilot from the scene in Rajasthan. But it would be suicidal for Pilot whose political future rests on his ability to spread his influence in his home State. The high command had tried a similar trick with Jyotiraditya Scindia, giving him the charge of Western Uttar Pradesh in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Scindia had been engaged in a running battle with his party colleague and then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath. Even a greenhorn politician knew that Scindia would be a loser since the Congress stood no chance in Uttar Pradesh. Post-elections, though, Scindia was back in Madhya Pradesh and, playing his cards deftly, helped dislodge the Congress government; he migrated to the Bharatiya Janata Party, successfully contested Rajya Sabha elections, and could soon be made a Cabinet Minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
Truth Number Four: Pilot will have difficulty in keeping his flock together or winning over new members to his side if he continues to prevaricate on his next course of action. The ongoing legal battle over the notices issued by the Rajasthan Assembly Speaker aside, Pilot has to quickly make a decision. Does he want to remain in Congress? Does he want to break away and form a regional party? Or, does he wish to join the BJP? If he decides on the first, he will never enjoy the kind of stature he had before and will always be looked upon by the party with suspicion. Besides, he will carry the shame of having capitulated. If he chooses the second, he will tread on an uncertain path. Rajasthan’s politics has been largely bipolar, with the Congress and the BJP fighting it out directly. There is little room for a third, regional party, in the State’s scheme of things. Besides, Pilot will have to start from scratch, having to build a new organization, when his energy should be directed at getting even with Gehlot. At some point, he will also have to decide on alliances. It cannot be the Congress with Gehlot at the helm. If his new outfit teams up with the BJP, he will attract exactly the same accusation being made today: That, he is in the BJP’s camp. It would appear to make sense for him to join the BJP. But there are problems, one of which he has himself created by announcing that he would not join the BJP.
Truth Number Five: His continued hope of support from the Congress’s high command, is misplaced. While he has directed his ire at Gehlot, he has been soft on the likes of Rahul Gandhi. He said that things began to go wrong after Rahul Gandhi quit as party chief. The fact is, he was cheated of the chance to become Chief Minister, despite leading his party to a win in the State — taking its tally to over 100 from the previous 20-plus — when Rahul Gandhi was the president. Gehlot may have had the numbers, but Rahul Gandhi could have persuaded him to let Pilot be the Chief Minister and accommodated Gehlot in the party’s central hierarchy. After all, Gehlot had served as Chief Minister on two previous occasions. Besides, Rahul Gandhi was supposed to be promoting the younger lot to leadership positions.
Truth Number Six: Pilot is running out of options even as Gehlot continues to turn the screws on him and his supporters. The summons by the police was one instance; there have been others. The notice by the Speaker, the arrival of the State police’s Special Operations Group team to the hotel in Manesar in Haryana where Pilot’s supporters (MLAs) have been put up, to question them on horse-trading, are the other examples. The Gehlot camp has kept up the heat by giving belligerent statements to the media, while the Pilot camp is silent. In the battle of perception, Pilot may well be the loser if he does not act.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.