Entering Point of No Return in Rajasthan, Will Sachin Pilot's 'Scindia Moment' Dull Ashok Gehlot's Magic?

Pallavi Ghosh
·4-min read

It's a letter which has now emerged as the last straw on the camel's back and created a desert storm. A notice served to Sachin Pilot to join investigations with the ATS, which was set up by Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot to probe attempts to topple his government.

While Gehot blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party for this, notice to Sachin Pilot drags him in and insinuates that the deputy CM who has never had a good equation with Gehlot is also hands in glove with the BJP to oust his government.

Pilot has been bidding his time and sources say he has watched the developments in Madhya Pradesh when Scindia carved a place for himself by leaving the Congress. Many in the grand old party dismissed Scindia's exit as a blow to him rather than the party. But while the wait may have been wrong, Scindia ensured that most of his supporters get a good place in the cabinet. It was also seen as a setback to Shivraj Singh Chouhan. In fact, in some circles, Scindia is seen as the Modi-Shah strategy to cut Shivraj to size.

It's a strategy which Pilot may now be forced to take up. Sources close to him say the notice to him, which has also been given to Gehlot, could be point of no return for Pilot. Who blinks first becomes critical.

The Gehlot issue has gone so far that for the deputy CM to maintain his grip over the party and supporters, it's important to show to Congress high command and others that he too can do a Scindia and dictate terms.

There are stark similarities between Scindia and Pilot story. Both have been close to Rahul Gandhi, and were seen as young people and those who could be the team for the senior Congress leader when he would take charge. But things have turned different over time.

As it became clear that the old guard would not cede space and Gandhi was building his own coterie, many like Milind Deora, Pilot, Jitin Prasad and Scindia began to wonder about their future. What binds all of them is the fact that each have carved a niche for themselves on their own preferring to build their own image.

Prasada has now floated Brahmin Samaj and ahead of state elections, it is slowly but surely, building a support base for himself as a Brahmin face for the Congress. But while Prasada has given no indication till now that he is disillusioned with the Congress, the fact that remains is the young aggressive face of the Congress may feel he is not being as used by the party as he perhaps should have been.

The story is similar for Milind Deora. Jyotiraditya Scindia has given a cue to few Congress leaders that it could pay not to be hanging around. Scindia has got a Rajya Sabha seat for himself and also his supporters have been adjusted in the cabinet much to the disdain of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. While many ask whether this was enough for him to quit the Congress, the counter is what could he have got by staying back?

The Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh duo would have ensured that Scindia be kept under their control. Scindia's grievance was pretty much similar to what Pilot has now — that he was not allowed to grow and he and his supporters sidelined and humiliated.

The power of a neta comes from the clout their supporters enjoy. The fact that Scindia could swing a good deal for his supporters, the ones who ensured the fall of the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh, has added to the might of Scindia. Slowly, if all goes well, Scindia can play himself as an alternative to Shivraj Singh Chouhan. A strategy which Pilot may be mulling as well.

As soon as the notice was sent to the deputy CM by ATS, while a similar one was sent to Rajasthan CM, one of Pilot's supporters called him to say this had to be an 'aar ya paar ki ladaai' and this time Pilot should not be silent.

Reality is this could be Pilot's Scindia moment. If this time Pilot doesn't put up a strong fight against Gehlot, he runs the risk of losing his supporters who may see him as a weak leader who doesn't have the courage to take on the mighty Gehlot. The comparison will be made to Scindia who took on the might of Kamal Nath and Digvijaya, who till the end underestimated Scindia and had to pay the price by losing their government.

For Pilot too it's a dilemma and a step back would be tough as it would mean he could run the risk of losing his supporters and that would leave him lonely and powerless. But Gehlot is known to be a shrewd player and isn't likely to be taking it lying down. And the Congress party doesn't like rebels or those who stand up for themselves. Certainly not at a time when demand is on for Gandhi's comeback. A neta with a mind and a clout of his own is the last thing on their priority.