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Disillusionment with Gandhis, Kharge’s cold feet, testing the water: Decoding Pilot’s tirade against Gehlot

There is considerable speculation laced with rumours pertaining to the future politics of two Congress regional satraps – Sachin Pilot of Rajasthan and DK Shivakumar of Karnataka. Would they go Himanta Biswa Sarma, Jyotiraditya Scindia and 48 others’ way to ditch the grand old party or stay on as loyal soldiers in the poll-bound states of Rajasthan and Karnataka?

Prima facie, it’s unlikely, as both Pilot and Shivakumar consider themselves seasoned and still fancy their chances/future in the grand old party. More importantly, they have not given up on the Gandhi trio’s ability to get them ‘justice’. The big question is whether, Rahul, Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi (in that particular order) would not let Shivakumar and Pilot down.

Pilot’s move to sit on a day-long fast on Tuesday has, however, caused a lot of disquiet within the Congress parivar. At a time when the entire Congress leadership is crediting and acknowledging chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s path-breaking “right to health” initiative, Pilot’s call for action against excise, mining and land mafia and Gehlot’s alleged failure to probe the alleged corruption and scandals of the erstwhile Vasundhara Raje regime has hit a jarring note. Pilot, it seems, is not bothered about Gehlot’s reaction, as he is used to the chief minister’s barbs and jibes. In this sense, Pilot’s ploy is aimed at seeking the Congress high command’s attention to resolve the Rajasthan impasse.

Pilot seems getting tired and exhausted of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge’s repeated assurances. In March 2023, Kharge was reportedly toying with the idea of making Pilot the state party chief, a move that would have greatly upset chief minister Gehlot. Pilot, it may be recalled, was heading Rajasthan PCC from 2014 to 2020.

His return as RPCC would have put him on somewhat equal footing with Gehlot in the crucial ticket distribution for November 2023 state assembly polls. Has Kharge developed cold feet? Pilot’s call for a fast is a pointer in that direction and a veiled threat to the leadership that his loyalty towards the party should not be viewed as a weakness.

There is some kite-flying kind of gossip about Pilot joining the Aam Admi Party or becoming a Bhagwant Mann for Arvind Kejriwal in Rajasthan. While in politics nothing can be totally ruled out, Pilot is unlikely to play second fiddle to Kejriwal or any regional satrap. If and whenever the honorary Major of Indian Territorial Army (TA) runs out of patience with the grand old party, Pilot would want to get into the Jagan Mohan Reddy or Mamata Banerjee mould, floating a regional outfit which, in effect, would be Congress by another name.

In a nutshell, Pilot’s tirade should be seen more as a precursor of the shape of things to come, his growing sense of disillusionment with the Gandhis more than Kharge and his attempt to test the waters at the ground level. It’s for the Gandhis to nudge Kharge to act swiftly as the Congress chief seems to be deferring everything till May 13 when the Karnataka verdict will be out and perhaps the 88th Congress president will get an opportunity to act from a position of strength.

Shivakumar’s predicament and struggle within the Congress requires a separate volume for a later date.


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