The political situation in Rajasthan took a dramatic turn when the Congress Party sacked rebel leader Sachin Pilot both as deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan as well as Pradesh Congress Committee(PCC) president.
The party also accused him of colluding with the BJP in its conspiracy to topple the state government.
Who Is Sachin Pilot?
Sachin Pilot is an Indian Politician who was the 5th deputy chief minister and also the president of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee. He is the son of late Congress leader Rajesh Pilot and Rama Pilot.
Pilot was previously a member of the Indian Parliament for the Ajmer seat in 2009 and Dausa constituency of Rajasthan, becoming the youngest member of the parliament. At the age of 26, he became the youngest MP of India.
What exactly happened in Rajasthan?
On 12 July 2020, Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot, along with 10 MLAs went to Delhi from Jaipur, claiming that they have the support of a total of 30 MLAs and can topple the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government in Rajasthan. Gehlot called on senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Congress President Sonia Gandhi to inform them of the situation and slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party for trying to destabilize his government.
The Congress Legislature Party issued a whip to all its sitting MLAs to be present in the meeting, which was scheduled to be held at the Chief Minister's House or face strict action.
Sachin Pilot and his supporting MLAs were also invited to discuss the issue but they refused. He demanded the post of Chief Minister of Rajasthan, which was denied to him following the 2018 Rajasthan Elections.
Sachin Pilot put forward three demands in front of the Congress. The first being that Congress should declare a year before the next state polls (to be held in 2022) that Pilot would be the next chief ministerial face. He wanted a public commitment from the party that he would be the Congress face in the next elections.
The second demand was that all those who had rebelled with Pilot should be accommodated i.e they should be rewarded by giving them a higher position in the Party.
The third and final demand put across to the Congress leaders was that Avinash Pande, general secretary, and Rajasthan Congress-in charge, should be removed from the post. The reason being, Pilot believes that Avinash Pandey is biased towards chief minister Ashok Gahlot and felt that the situation can only be normalized if another person was brought in his place.
The Congress leaders urged Sachin Pilot and his MLAs to attend the party meeting in order to sort the political differences so that the political row between the state’s chief minister and deputy minister can come to end. After he refused to do so, the party passed a resolution against him.
The Party sacked Pilot from the organization’s top post and replaced him with senior Jat leader Govind Singh Dotasra. The Congress hopes that Dotasra’s appointment as the Pradesh Congress Committee president will likely bring in the support of a substantial section of the influential Jat community.
The CM’s Reaction towards Sachin Pilot
The CM alleged that Sachin Pilot has backstabbed the party despite being respected for seven long years as president of the State unit.
CM Ashok Gahlot launched an unprecedented attack against Sachin Pilot. Addressing the press, Gahlot called former deputy CM and Rajasthan congress state unit chief Pilot “nikamma and nakara” (useless).
Earlier Gahlot had said that being handsome and having good command in English does not mean everything in politics, in reference to Sachin Pilot.
Sachin Pilot’s Options
The very first option Sachin Pilot has is to stay back with the Congress party. He hopes to get a bigger role at the center, not in the near future, but eventually. The only trade-off is that he has to deal with Ashok Gahlot if he decides to go back.
Another option is joining hands with BJP, like his colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia did recently. But the support of the MLAs in his alleged coup holds him back. Also Sachin pilot cannot go against his past statement in which he claimed to have been fighting against the BJP, his entire life.
The BJP might make Pilot chief minister to immediately establish a government in the state but it would be a temporary settlement.
The most difficult option for Pilot is to make his own Party and start from scratch. This enables him to be the king of his castle. The compromise being that will have to start everything from scratch with little support. Also, starting everything from the very beginning does not ensure that he will be able to win the next elections in Rajasthan.
Court’s verdict in favour of Sachin Pilot
The Gehlot government earlier submitted a petition to speaker C.P. Joshi on July 14 listing reasons for MLAs disqualifications including missing Congress Legislative Party(CLP) meetings, conspiring to topple the elected government, hostile conduct and remain inaccessible.
The state assembly secretariat issued a notice to all of them, asking to submit their responses within three days.
The rebel congress leader Sachin Pilot and his 18 dissent MLAs then filed a petition in the Rajasthan High Court challenging the speaker’s disqualification notice to them. PIlot also argued that they cannot be disqualified for merely disagreeing with some leaders of the Party. They also said that disqualification notice by the speaker is a violation of their freedom of speech.
The court has ordered the status quo on the disqualification notices, which means that speaker C.P. Joshi will not be able to conduct disqualification proceedings against the rebel MLAs.
After Rajasthan HC’s order on disqualification of Sachin Pilot and his MLAs, Rajasthan witnessed high political drama when CM Ashok Gahlot reached State Governor Kalraj Mishra’s official residence with more than 100 legislatures, including independents. He met Mishra and insisted on convening the assembly session, intending to prove his strength and force the hands of rebels who are seeking protection from disqualification. He protested for more than 4 hours at the Governor’s residence. He also said that he will go and stage a protest outside PM Narendra Modi’s residence if his demand for calling a session is not met as soon as possible.
The dharna was called off after Mishra said that he will abide by the constitution but not act under any pressure.
The Governor asked Gehlot to re-submit his recommendation, with clarifications for calling a session. A statement from the Governor included queries on the free movement of MLAs and the reason why the session needed to be called so urgently.
The governor received a revised proposal from Ashok Gahlot that a session of the assembly will be called on 31st July. Meanwhile, Congress launched its nationwide campaign ‘#speak up democracy’, against BJP’s attempt to violate constitutional and democratic traditions. All this is being done to disqualify Sachin Pilot from the party. If Sachin Pilot and his MLAs are protected from disqualification, they will be eligible to vote against Congress and it will become hard for Ashok Gahlot to retain his power in Rajasthan.
What future holds for Rajasthan?
Rajasthan has a total of 200 seats out of which Congress controls 107 and BJP sits in opposition with 75 seats.
Rajasthan Deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot's rebellion against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot will end in the favour of the person who establishes numerical superiority. However, Pilot can do a ‘Scindia’ and give the BJP another state that it lost in the election.
Before Sachin Pilot's revolt, the Gehlot Government had the support of 107 Congress, 13 Independents, two from the Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP), and one from the Rashtriya Lok Dal.
With 19 MLAs led by Pilot rebelling, the Gehlot camp numbers are down to 105 and the BJP+Pilot numbers make up 95 MLAs.
Despite having 75 MLAs, BJP would need the resignation of at least 50 MLAs to form the government. This would give BJP a simple majority during a floor test -- leaving the Vidhan Sabha Speaker out. However, if all the 13 Independent MLAs and smaller allies suddenly decide to switch sides from the Gehlot camp, this would bring down the requirement of resignation to less than 25 MLAs. The walking out of Sachin Pilot along with his MLAs might prove to be a game-changer for the Congress Party in Rajasthan.
By: Divya Rawat