Jaipur: Just a few days ahead of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Rajasthan to lend support farmers who are protesting the Centre’s three farm laws, former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot has been holding massive “kisan mahapanchayats”.
While these meetings have been well attended, the state’s chief minister Ashok Gehlot, cabinet ministers and the Congress party’s key functionaries have distanced themselves from the rallies.
This has once again added fuel to speculations that the rift between Pilot and Gehlot has not yet been settled. Last year, Pilot publicly rebelled against the chief minister, alleging that the latter has sidelined him in the state administration. As a result, Pilot was sacked from the position of deputy chief minister and as the president of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee (RPCC).
These mahapanchayats are being held across various districts in the eastern Rajasthan, known to be a stronghold of Pilot and the MLAs who support him.
Sources suggest that by picking up the farmers’ issue, Pilot has pounced on the opportunity to show his strength, even before Gehlot and the top leadership could register their solidarity with the ongoing farmers’ protests in the state.
The timing is also significant, perhaps intended to demonstrate to Rahul Gandhi that his influence among the people has not diminished, even if his stature in the party has been.
Naturally, this has not gone down well with Gehlot, which is evident from the fact that the official social media handle of the RPCC has not shared anything about the rallies being held by Pilot.
On the other hand, the MLAs in Pilot’s camp are busy gaining traction for him both on the ground as well as social media. Bharatpur MLA and former tourism minister Vishvendra Singh, who was sacked from his position for being an ally of Pilot, has called him “kisano ka Pilot” (farmers’ Pilot). He has even created a symbol for the Pilot faction, a vertical aeroplane with moustaches over Rajasthan’s map, perhaps meant to signify Pilot’s “grip” over the state.
चुप यूं नहीं कि लफ़्ज कम हैं,
— Vishvendra Singh Bharatpur (@vishvendrabtp) February 6, 2021
Other Pilot camp MLAs such as Murari Lal Meena, Ved Prakash Solanki, P.R. Meena, Harish Meena, Rakesh Pareek and G.R. Khatana have been involved in organising the mahapanchayats across eastern Rajasthan, which will be held throughout this week.
These developments also assume significance in the wake of a long-due cabinet expansion of the Gehlot government, which has been delayed for about two months now.
The Pilot camp has been quite vocal about seeking positions in the Gehlot cabinet as a reward for its remarkable performance in the local bodies and Panchayat elections held recently.
The cabinet reshuffle is expected to be taken up during the Budget session, which will start on Wednesday.
Apart from putting on record through the mahapanchayats that his appeal in Rajasthan has not been affected despite his fall in rank, Pilot criticised the Centre for bringing the laws in amid the pandemic.
“None of the state governments were consulted before formulating these laws, no farmers’ organisation was asked and the three laws were hurriedly passed in the House and forcibly imposed on the country,” he said in his address at the Dausa Kisan Mahapanchayat.
The mahapanchayat in Dausa had also adopted a memorandum addressed to President Ram Nath Koving, demanding the immediate repeal of the farm laws, withdrawal of cases registered against the protesting farmers and compensation to the families of farmers who lost their lives in the agitation. They also reiterated the demand that the minimum support price (MSP) system should be made a legally binding right.