Cong aims high but slowed by Gehlot-Pilot rivalry

The Congress might be down and out in other parts of the country but the first signs of party’s signs of revival before the next general elections are likely to come from Rajasthan where it is said to be on a comeback trail. But the biggest dilemma for the party is the generational gap between the two of its most popular leaders – former chief minister Ashok Gehlot and former union minister Sachin Pilot.

While Gehlot is a Congress veteran with a clean image in the state politics, Pilot has worked hard to emerge as a youth icon who has been making tireless effort to revive the party. The Congress is trying hard to check the possible collateral damage caused by the rivalry between the two leaders. Earlier this year Gehlot went public saying the state unit president should work for the party and not think about becoming chief minister. He cited his own example saying he did not fall for the bait when he was projected as chief minister while he was state unit chief. But the Congress workers acknowledge that both the leaders are working hard to ensure the BJP is defeated.

Rajasthan had special interest in the Congress reshuffle earlier this year as Gehlot was made AICC general secretary in charge of organisation and training while Pilot steered the state unit. Another strong Rajasthan Congress leader C.P Joshi’s clout has diminished as the party suffered defeats in the northeast under his organisational leadership.

Gehlot, who was chief minister from 1998 to 2003 and again from 2008 to 2013 has an image of a clean leader. He is one of the most popular politicians in the state. Pilot on the other hand represents the young brigade in the Congress that is being given more responsibilities by Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

On Tuesday, Rahul Gandhi launched a scathing attack on prime minister Narendra Modi during political meetings in the state. Citing his economic and agricultural policies saying not a single rupee of farmers’ loan had been waived by the government and the Make in India campaign had “failed” with phones and T-shirts being outsourced from China. Gandhi said his party “wants phones to be made in India and have a tag of made in Dholpur.”

Beginning his 150-km long road show in eastern Rajasthan from Mania in Dholpur district, which shares its border with Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, the Congress president attacked the government on a range of issues like the Rafale deal to demonetisation.

“Youth trusted Modi. He said he did not wish to become a prime minister but wanted to be a chowkidar. Now people are laughing. He never told that whose chowkidar he wanted to be. They got to know later that Anil Ambani is being protected,” Rahul said. He alleged that Modi benefited 15-20 top industrialists of the country instead of farmers.

“Former UPA government gave MGNREGA, brought tribal bill, meal to students in schools, waived off farmers’ loan worth Rs 70,000 crore. In Rajasthan, the Ashok Gehlot government introduced free medicine schemes but what Narendra Modi government and Vasundhara Raje government did for the poor?” he asked.

“I went to the prime minister’s office only once and that too to raise farmers’ issue but the PM remained silent and did not speak a single word,” he said.

Targeting chief minister Vasundhara Raje, Rahul alleged that Lalit Modi gave money directly to Raje’s son. However, he did not specify when and why Lalit Modi allegedly paid Raje’s son Dushyant Singh. He exuded confidence that the Congress would return to power in Rajasthan and said it would be a government for the poor, small and medium businessmen and youths.

The Congress president said the NDA government had failed and urged people to form a Congress government at the centre which would work for the poor, farmers and youths of the country once again. He said it would be a people’s government in Rajasthan. The doors of chief ministers, ministers and MLAs would always remain open for people. He gave an assurance that Congress ministers would be accessible to everyone. Rahul said the Congress is united and going to win the election in Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, Congress state chief Sachin Pilot targeted Raje, saying she announced free electricity to farmers half an hour before the model code of conduct came into force but where was she for over four and a half years.

After the rally, Gandhi began his road show in a bus with party leaders. He will travel for nearly 150 km during the road show in Dholpur, Bharatpur and Dausa districts.