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Pilot’s exit and Rajasthan’s turmoil

  • The sacking of Sachin Pilot as Rajasthan’s deputy chief minister and the Congress party’s state unit chief creates uncertainty about the future of the state government, but also indicates internal differences within the party, which seems to be failing in nurturing its younger leaders.

Congress leader Sachin Pilot has been sacked as Rajasthan’s deputy chief minister and the party’s state unit chief. The development has come as a rude denouement to the 42-year-old former Union minister’s rebellion against party veteran and chief minister Ashok Gehlot. Pilot had been seen to be at loggerheads with Gehlot ever since the latter was chosen over him to become chief minister after the 2018 assembly election victory in which his supporters believed Pilot played a bigger role.

Pilot had taken over the reins of the party’s state unit in 2013 after it suffered a comprehensive defeat against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), leading to the fall of the Gehlot-led Congress government. He worked on the ground, connecting with the masses, which helped the Congress return to power five years later. Though his supporters felt he deserved the chief minister’s post, the party’s so-called “old guard", or experienced leaders, represented by Gehlot in Rajasthan, refused to cede ground to the younger lot. As a result, Pilot had to settle into playing second fiddle to the chief minister, who allegedly missed no opportunity to undercut his cabinet colleague’s authority.

While Pilot’s sacking completes his exit from the Congress, this could also potentially destabilize Gehlot’s government. If Pilot is able to muster the support of a sufficient number of legislators, the Gehlot government could lose majority support in the assembly and may be forced to face a strength test. For now, however, the size of the Pilot camp remains unclear. The BJP, of course, would be sniffing an opportunity, and overtures to Pilot to join the party seem to have already been made. Beyond the immediate political implications, though, the turn of events points to deeper troubles within the Grand Old Party. The Congress seems to have failed in nurturing and rewarding young talent. Only recently, Jyotiraditya Scindia joined hands with the BJP to bring down Congress’s Kamal Nath-led government in Madhya Pradesh. Now, with another young leader exiting, other young guns too could be forced to reassess their political future in the party.

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