Sonia Gandhi, the Congress President, has made a series of decisions in the last three days, the most recent of which was to remove Kamal Nath, the powerful chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, from one of the two positions he held: leader of the opposition and state Congress chief, both of which he retains.
Now Sonia Gandhi must make another difficult decision in Rajasthan, one of the two states where the Congress is in control and where elections are scheduled for next year.
Last Monday, former Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot visited with her and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra separately.
According to sources within Congress, he is eager for the party to make a decision on who should be the chief minister for the 2023 election, using the Punjab catastrophe as an example.
The 44-year-old leader is said to have warned the Congress leadership that if no decision is made on a course correction, Rajasthan might be lost in the same way that Punjab was lost when Charanjit Singh Channi’s last-minute nomination as Chief Minister proved to be a disaster.
Moreover, according to sources, Sachin Pilot has met with the Gandhis three times in the last two weeks.
He told reporters after his meeting with Sonia Gandhi last week: “I talked about how we need to buck the trend in Rajasthan and reclaim power. I’ve put forth a lot of effort, and the party should consider its options.”
Mr. Pilot also stated that he had delegated his decision on his leadership position to others. “I have always stated that I am willing to participate in whatever job that is offered to me, but I would prefer to concentrate on my home state of Rajasthan,” he remarked.
Mr. Pilot led a revolt with 18 MLAs two years ago, leading Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to sequester more than 100 MLAs at a resort.
The Gandhis were able to persuade Mr. Pilot to back down after weeks of fighting and hard discussions, with the promise of accommodating his followers in the Gehlot administration.
Mr. Pilot’s visit with the Gandhis last month sparked new suspicion that his patience was becoming thin. Many of his colleagues, including Jyotiraditya Scindia and Jitin Prasada, have defected from Congress to the BJP.
However, Ashok Gehlot, one of the Congress’s most senior leaders, has previously demonstrated that he will go to any length to maintain power.
He has the support of the majority of Congress MLAs, as well as Sonia Gandhi’s confidence.
“My resignation is always with Sonia Gandhi”- Prashant Kishor
On his way to a leadership meeting on election strategist Prashant Kishor on Sunday, he told reporters, “My resignation is always with Sonia Gandhi.”
The Congress reportedly offered Mr. Pilot a position as an All India Congress Committee General Secretary – Priyanka Gandhi is one – to pacify him, but he declined, claiming that he did not want to leave Rajasthan and his core supporters.
However, Mr. Pilot was reportedly told to wait until 2023 before running for the party’s next election.
For the time being, Congress has deferred a decision until after the “Chintan Shivir,” or reflection meeting, scheduled for May 13-15 in Udaipur, Rajasthan. The meeting, which is one of the major initiatives promised by Congress in the aftermath of its recent state election losses, is slated to be an Ashok Gehlot show from start to finish.
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