The monsoon may have stalled in Rajasthan, but the political hailstorm continues. The political battle between Gehlot and Pilot has once again turned to Delhi, while the tussle between Vasundhara and the state leadership continues.
The recent by-elections not only exposed many pictures but also gave rise to many speculations. The assembly by-poll elections held in Sujangarh, Sahara and Rajsamand, made it clear that the road to 2023 was not going to be easy for both parties.
While on the one hand, Vasundhara Raje was missing from the party posters and the election grounds during the by-elections. On the other hand, Sachin Pilot was seen making a mockery.
Ahead of the 2018 assembly elections, there was speculation that the party would face a bad defeat because of Vasundhara. During this time, a slogan was also prevalent, “Modi tujhse bair nahi, Rani teri khair nahi”. But BJP won more than 70 seats. Later it became clear that Vasundhara still had the power to win in Rajasthan.
A glimpse of this was also seen on Vasundhara’s birthday on 8 March, when 38 out of 70 MLAs and 13 out of 25 MPs attended Raje’s court. Yet, despite having so much influence and support, the central leadership is constantly trying to sideline Vasundhara.
It is well known that Vasundhara had publicly slammed Amit Shah when he was trying to make Gajendra Singh Shekhawat (Union cabinet minister of water resources) the head of the Rajasthan State BJP. So, Amit Shah does not want to put the reins in the hands of a person who is not in his control.
Vasundhara knows very well that Satish Poonia is a first time winning MLA, who neither has immense public support nor MLAs support. On the other hand, Raje has the support of many MLAs and MPs and the public.
Recently, a 22-year-old letter of Poonia was made public reportedly on behalf of the Vasundhara faction (although there is no proof) in which Poonia had called leaders like Rajendra Rathod and Harishankar Bhabhada as Bhasmasur. Countering this, an audio of Raje was leaked by the Satish Poonia faction in which she told the District President of Bharatpur’s Vasundhara Raje Manch, Tarachand, to continue the Manch.
This can be taken as an example and it can be said that the fight between Raje and Poonia is in full swing. But Gajendra Singh Shekhawat can emerge as a challenge because of Modi and Shah’s grace.
The war between Shekhawat and Vasundhara also came to the fore when the audio of the conversation of MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma and Shekhawat was leaked during the political crisis of Rajasthan. Political Pundits say that due to Raje’s proximity with Gehlot, the Vasundhara faction was involved in leaking the audio, but there is no evidence for the same.
Pilot has reached Delhi for the third time in the last 20 days and is trying to meet Rahul Gandhi before Gehlot. While on the other hand, the high command is engaged in damage control of Punjab.
Pilot’s last visit to Delhi is being told differently because Congress leaders, who lost the elections in front of independents and BSP candidates in the 2018 assembly elections, travelled to Delhi with Pilot and are still sitting there.
It is worth mentioning that these leaders had earlier written a letter to the interim president of Congress, Sonia Gandhi, expressing concern about the growing influence of BSP and independent MLAs.
These 15 leaders, who wrote letters to Sonia Gandhi, wanted to meet Ajay Maken, in charge of the Rajasthan Congress. But Maken asked five leaders to come as a delegation. Unfortunately, despite the preparation of the delegation, Maken has not been able to meet them so far due to busyness.
Manish Yadav, the Congress candidate from the Shahpur assembly seat, said, “We will keep camping till we tell our problems to the high command.” The Gehlot faction has not yet been able to break this bet of Pilot and is closely monitoring the developments.
Although politically, a big change has come that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who had decided not to meet anyone and stay at home for 2 months to avoid the post-COVID effect and postpone the cabinet’s expansion, reached Raj Bhavan on the pretext of Governor Kalraj Mishra’s birthday.
Political pundits are considering it as the pressure of the Gandhi family. According to experts, the Gandhi family is pressurising Gehlot to expand the cabinet. Due to this, Gehlot had to come out of the locked room.
At present, seeing the atmosphere of internal discord going on in the Rajasthan Congress, it seems that the cabinet expansion can end the political whirlwind. But it is difficult to say whether the cabinet expansion will satisfy both factions. Gehlot has already tried to send the message that there is no dearth of ministerial candidates by bringing forward independent and BSP MLAs.
On the other hand, Pilot wants five to six ministerial ranks, which does not seem to be possible at the moment. Even if possible, the satisfaction of the Gehlot group cannot be guaranteed.
The high command is well aware that the power in Rajasthan is based on the number game and the number game is in favour of Gehlot. So Gehlot is not only being given more attention but in recent months, he has been given a free hand. But seeing the current situation, it can be said that soon there will be an expansion of the cabinet in Rajasthan and Pilot can be given a role at the centre.
There is no doubt that Pilot has been marginalised in the state congress. So Pilot either hopes to become a horse of the long race. He may choose calmness or become part of a new political fight.
Looking at the attitude of the MLAs, the first option can be rejected outright because the patience of the MLAs is breaking day by day. But, on the other hand, under the second option, decisions like setting up a third front or joining the BJP can be taken, which do not appear to be successful at the moment.
The history of regional parties in Rajasthan has not been very good, but Hanuman Beniwal’s RLP is an exception. Hanuman Beniwal soon strengthened the organisation and created a party worthy of contesting the elections. Experts believe that Beniwal will benefit from the infighting between BJP and Congress, but it does not seem to be happening.
In the by-elections, Beniwal tried too much, but his party could not even get second place in any seat. Beniwal’s support base may be in every assembly constituency, but it is very limited, so the chances of getting benefits are less. Moreover, due to the farmers’ movement and the agriculture bills, Beniwal has left the BJP, which was not a good decision for his political career.
Despite the BJP’s support in the last Lok Sabha elections, Beniwal defeated Jyoti Mirdha by a very small margin. In such a situation, the coming assembly elections are a challenge of existence for him.
The history of Rajasthan has been that after every 5 years, the governing party changes here. So it will be interesting to see whether a new script is written this time or the history is repeated. At present, both parties are battling with internal discord. Now the one who wins in this will deal with the opposition party.
If the BJP ignore Vasundhara, then the party will have to face a loss because she is a leader with a mass base. Even though the Rajput fraternity had split from Raje after the Anandpal encounter in the last elections, but now Raje is trying to regain her grip.
On the other hand, the fight between Gehlot and Pilot in Congress seems to be increasing day by day. Pilot has public support and Gehlot has the support of MLAs to run the government. Therefore, it can be said that the coming assembly election will be different in many ways and will be a fight for survival for some leaders and supremacy for others.