Rajasthan: Is a Compromise Between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot in the Offing?

Without the rebel MLAs' support, Ashok Gehlot may not have the numbers required in a floor test.

Jaipur: Days after Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot publicly called his former deputy Sachin Pilot “useless” and “good for nothing”, using the Hindi words “nikamma” and “nakara“, he now appears to be more forgiving towards the rebel Congress MLAs. He has indicated that the MLAs can be brought back into the Congress fold “if the high command forgives them”, pointing towards a possible reconciliation.

Soon after Governor Kalraj Mishra gave his nod to hold an assembly session beginning from August 14, following a week-long impasse between him and the state cabinet, the showdown between Gehlot and Pilot has toned down.

A day after the assembly session was finalised for August 14, Gehlot shifted the MLAs supporting him to a resort in Jaisalmer from Fairmont Hotel in Jaipur, stating that attempts of horse-trading have become even more desperate after an assembly session has been announced.

He, however, didn’t utter a word against the rebel MLAs, instead focusing accusations of toppling his government at the Bharatiya Janta Party and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, who he said took a stand at the behest of the BJP.

Later, he added that he would accept the rebel MLAs. “It depends on the high command. If the high command forgives them then I will embrace them, I have no pressure points.”

While the Gehlot government has not explicitly talked about holding a floor test on August 14 in its proposal to the governor, the current turn of events suggests that the floor test is imminent and the Congress high command is trying hard to save itself in Rajasthan.

Gehlot seems to be on edge, with reportedly only 99 MLAs on his side. Earlier, he had claimed support of 109 MLAs, which included MLAs of his own party, independents, 2 MLAs from the Bharatiya Tribal Party and one from the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

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However, only 92 out of the 109 MLAs have reached Jaisalmer, as per reports. Seven other MLAs including four ministers have stayed in Jaipur and are expected to back Gehlot. This gives Gehlot the support of 99 MLAs.

One Congress MLA, Master Bhawarlal, is critically ill and likely will not participate in the floor test. This will bring down the strength of the 200-member assembly to 199 and the majority mark to 100.

The BJP, on the other hand, has 72 MLAs and an additional three MLAs from its ally Rashtriya Loktantrik Party. If it gets the support of the six BSP MLAs and 19 MLAs from the Pilot camp (72+3+6+19 = 100), the BJP will reach the halfway mark.

Gehlot’s 99 MLAs are still one less than the exact number of MLAs required to prove his majority in the assembly, which is assumed to be the reason behind his changed stance towards the rebels.

The Congress too is not in a position to lose one more state under its control in the Hindi heartland, especially after losing Madhya Pradesh recently, and is working out a plan to reconcile the two Congress camps in Rajasthan.

Further, with judicial interference in the disqualification of rebel Congress MLAs, Gehlot now seems to be looking at the bigger picture of saving the face of the Congress party in the state. Earlier, Gehlot had hoped the disqualification would bring down the halfway mark in the state.

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Even from the rebel MLAs’ side, there is are indications of a possible compromise within the Congress in Rajasthan.

Pilot, who was sacked from the position of deputy chief minister and Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief, congratulated new Rajasthan Congress chief Govind Dotasara when he took charge on July 29.

“Congratulations to Shri Govind Dotasara ji on assuming the charge of president of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee. I hope that without any pressure or partiality, you will give full respect to the party workers with whose hard work, the government has formed,” he tweeted.

One of Pilot-supporting MLA, Gajendra Singh Shaktawat, said that the MLAs in the Pilot camp would vote as per his decision.

“We are with Sachin Pilot and will abide by whatever decision he takes. We have never spoken about leaving the Congress party. If the Congress issues a whip, I will definitely attend the assembly session. We will raise our voice from within by being inside the party,” Shaktawat told the Indian Express.

While Gehlot and Pilot have taken the first step towards settling the power tussle, supposedly on the Congress high command’s insistence, it remains to be seen if the party will continue to hold ground in Rajasthan.