Are Ashok Gehlot's days as Rajasthan chief minister numbered?

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
13 May 2022
Are Ashok Gehlot's days as Rajasthan chief minister numbered?

Major organisational changes are expected in the Congress after the conclusion of its three-day 'Chintan Shivir (brainstorming session)' at Udaipur in Rajasthan.

Though there is no definite time frame for effecting these changes, the reshuffle is expected to take place within weeks of the Udaipur session and in the midst of the ongoing organisational elections.

The grand old party is expected to have its new president by September-October this year. An elected Congress Working Committee (CWC) is also likely to take shape by that time.

In the past few months, the Congress leadership had received various suggestions, including those from poll strategist Prashant Kishor, regarding the party's pan-India revival and also its preparations for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

One such suggestion is to appoint Ashok Gehlot as the party's national working president to assist the Congress chief in day-to-day organisational affairs.

If that happens, Sachin Pilot is likely to replace Gehlot as the Rajasthan chief minister.

That way, Congress will seek to not only address the infighting in Rajasthan but also give Pilot enough time to overcome the anti-incumbency against the Gehlot government. Rajasthan will go to the polls in November-December next year along with Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram.

The Congress high command does not want a repeat of Punjab where it replaced Captain Amarinder Singh with Charanjit Singh Channi just six months before the elections and despite the change, the party fared poorly in the polls held in February this year. The move was criticised within the Congress, with a section arguing that the change should have happened at least a year before the assembly elections.

There might be some resistance within the Congress to Pilot's appointment given that he had led a rebellion against Gehlot and his own party and almost gone with the BJP.

But options for the high command are limited as no other leader barring Gehlot and Pilot enjoys popular support across the state.

Gehlot's shift to Delhi will take off some pressure from the Congress president and also silence the critics who claim that the Gandhi family is unwilling to share responsibilities with any other leader.

It is still not clear whether Rahul Gandhi will contest the upcoming presidential elections in the party. And even if he returns as the Congress chief, there is no clarity whether he will be the prime ministerial candidate of the party or the combined opposition.

If he remains reluctant, the Congress could project Gehlot as its candidate for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections with the hope that all the other opposition parties would rally behind him in view of his experience and mass appeal.

In any case, the next few weeks are very crucial for Congress to put in place its strategy for the next national elections and plan big changes in the coming weeks.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi gave enough indications of a major impending organisational reshuffle in her opening remarks at the Chintan Shivir when she said changes in the party are the need of the hour.

"We need to change the way we work. We have to keep the party organisation above personal ambitions. The party has given us a lot and it is time to repay the debt," she said.

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