Rajasthan assembly elections 2018: In Rajasthan today, the political talk is not so much about which party will win the December 7 Assembly election, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party or the Congress. Instead, the discussions revolve around who will be the next chief minister, Sachin Pilot or Ashok Gehlot?
The surprise move has added to the suspense about the Congress party’s presumptive chief minister given that both Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot are strong contenders for the top post in Rajasthan.Former chief minister Ashok Gehlot and state Congress president Sachin Pilot will contest the December 7 assembly elections in Rajasthan.
At a public meeting last week in Jodhpur – considered Ashok Gehlot’s stronghold and encompassing his Sardarpura constituency – Congress president Rahul Gandhi mentioned Sachin Pilot three times before taking the former chief minister’s name while talking about their work.
Sachin Pilot has worked hard to revive the party in Rajasthan after it was reduced to 21 seats in 2013 and virtually written off. He shifted base to Jaipur from Delhi after taking over as the state Congress chief, and has clocked 5 lakh km over the last four and a half years, visiting every Assembly constituency at least three times. He can also take some credit for the public anger against Vasundhara Raje. He set about cornering her from day one, whether it was over the review of the rural employment guarantee scheme, the proposed bill to gag the media, or her proximity to the fugitive former cricket administrator Lalit Modi.
Indeed, Sachin Pilot’s effort is being held up as the model for the Congress to revive itself nationally.
Sachin Pilot VS Ashok Gehlot
On the other side, working in Ashok Gehlot’s favour is his vast experience. He is regarded well by Rajasthan’s people, and is backed by the Congress’s old guard, who have accepted Gandhi’s leadership just as he has come to terms with them. The former chief minister’s supporters argue that his experience will come in handy in maximising the Congress’s tally in Rajasthan in the 2019 general election.
In the end, if the Congress wins Rajasthan, the leadership tussle will likely be settled by what the high command and the new legislators want, and even the party’s overall performance in other state elections. If the Congress also wins Madhya Pradesh and installs Kamal Nath as the chief ministers, then Sachin Pilot’s chances would improve since Gandhi may opt for a mix of the “old and the young”.
Then again, the quiet but politically savvy Ashok Gehlot has been at Rahul’s elbow for the past year, strategising for the Congress in Gujarat and Karnataka.
So, the contest for the top job is apparently down to Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot. Who will it be come December 11?