Monday, October, 03,2022

For Cong, after Rahul, it's Gehlot as second in command who can actually fight Modi-Shah

Gehlot will continue to be face of the party in 2023 polls but Pilot may be appointed either PCC Chief or Chairman of election campaign committee!

Presenting an analysis of the recently concluded Congress ‘maha-rally’, Editor-In-Chief of First India, Jagdeesh Chandra, in The New JC Show, highlights the prime takeaway from the rally-Sonia’s handing over the party’s ‘baton’ to Rahul, who will now call the shots and take major decisions, leading up to his rechristening in August-September 2022

How do you view December 12 Jaipur Maharally as a whole & what message it has for both Congress and BJP?

Jagdeesh Chandra: This rally has three big messages. First, the authority of Congress High Command was restored. Second, Rahul Gandhi for the first time decided the ideological line of the party in a bold move, on which lines the party will contest future elections.

And the third message is Rise and Rise of Ashok Gehlot. As far as the BJP is concerned, it is a warning signal or point of concern that this rally will affect 2023 elections in Rajasthan. This Maharally is an alarm bell for the BJP.

After amazing success of this rally, has Gehlot’s stature increased so much that he may be considered an Opposition leader in front of Modi & has he moved a step closer towards becoming Cong President or Working Prez?

Of course, this rally has proved that Ashok Gehlot is the confidant and the most powerful person for the Gandhi family and after Rahul, in entire party, he can challenge Modi openly.

Congress has, in last 15-20 years, held such a big rally probably for the first time. Who would you to give credit for this?

We have declared in an article that it was a ‘One Man Show’ and basic message of the rally is that only. Along with Ashok Gehlot, the credit goes to his colleagues Ajay Maken and Govind Singh Dotasra.

So, this was a team of three persons headed and supervised by Ashok Gehlot. Then there were the Cabinet ministers, MLAs and KC Venugopal also joined later.

One thing I noticed is that MLA Rafik Khan remained stationed at the airport till late night as he was responsible for hosting leaders coming from other states. It was basically teamwork.

For the first time, during a political rally, the life of the common man did not come to a standstill. There were no long traffic jams etc. What is your take on this?

It was a miracle indeed. During my service, I have seen several rallies and was even called the rally expert. It was probably for the first time that no shop or vendor was looted, there were no traffic jams, except on a part of Sikar Road.

So credit goes to the CM, who is also the home minister. CS and DGP were involved. Then Jaipur police team, headed by Anand Srivastava who is a man of all seasons, performed very well.

It was because of this Gehlot, after seeing off guests at the airport, reached OTS & patted Srivastava’s back for being an execution miracle.

What is your assessment of the crowd gathered at the rally?

Guessing about number of people in rallies is an enigma, a mystery. In a fair assessment, we reached the number of around 1.25 lakh even though the BJP leaders are claiming that chairs were only 24,000, some said 40,000 or 60,000. So leaving numbers aside, the rally was a hit and even from numbers point of view, it was a great success.

You mentioned earlier that rally was a ‘One Man Show’?

The ‘One Man Show’ because the entire plan, right from the selection of venue to formation of teams and to garner resources, CM Ashok Gehlot was behind it.

Further, there was a task of inviting leaders to send a message of united Congress. So, the whole A-Z scenario indicated towards Gehlot that is why it was called a ‘One Man Show’.

Sometimes praise, sometimes attack. Just two days ago, Gehlot said that PM does not even reply to many of his letters. What is your analysis of relation between the two?

Modi and Gehlot both are masterminds of human relationships. During the last 4-5 years, the PM has praised Gehlot 4 times, twice during corona times and then during inauguration of engineering colleges, and earlier when Gehlot went to meet the PM after becoming the CM.

They have had good relations when both were CMs. So, their equations keep changing as per political requirements. As far as responding to letters is concerned, Ashok Gehlot writes a lot of letters and tries to corner the PM on all issues.

Besides, he is an aware person who reacts to issues and he got political mileage from statement that the PM does not respond to his letters.

Rahul Gandhi spoke on Hindu, Hindutva & Hindutvavadi in the rally. CM Gehlot endorsed Rahul’s philosophy on December 13 through 3 tweets. How do you perceive it?

Gehlot is avowedly the most loyal person of Gandhi family. Rahul usually has issue that whatever line he takes, no party leader supports it.

But this time Gehlot supported him and tried to convey Rahul’s message to the masses in simplified terms and rushed to Rahul’s rescue.

Gehlot has been defending the Gandhi family whenever they are attacked by the opponents. He emerged as a natural troubleshooter or a supporter of Rahul.

Was this rally a launching pad for Rahul to be made Congress President? After all, when will Rahul take over the charge of Congress President?

Rahul’s projection on posters was just because of Gehlot who wanted his face to be in focus prominently as the leader.

About Rahul, even Lok Sabha Speaker once told me he is a brilliant person. But my analysis about Rahul is that he is a reluctant bridegroom.

He has been seeking a free hand in the party, which is not possible for now. If he is fated to head the party, some day news will come that Rahul has become President of Congress.

After many months, Sonia Gandhi came out of Delhi & who persuaded her to come to Jaipur for rally. She did not give any speech here, how do you see this whole incident?

It is true that she was not well and not willing to come. It seems Priyanka talked to Sonia on Gehlot’s request. Rahul had talked to her earlier.

I think Gehlot used veto as he has strong moral influence on the Gandhi family. She must be suspicious of numbers in the rally as there have been instances of less crowd in the past.

As far as her speech is concerned, I think she had brought written speech and was willing to deliver it but the way Rahul dominated the stage and spoke effectively she dropped the idea of her speech.

And the line of her speech must have been different from that of Rahul. This sent a message that Sonia has declared that Rahul is the boss and he will call the shots.

How excited will Gehlot be with the success of this grand rally, only 5 days before the 3rd anniversary of his government on December 17?

Of course, Gehlot must be excited as he has performed excellently well in the last 3 years and the government is successful at every front. Among the Congress-ruled states, Rajasthan is perhaps the best—politically and administratively—managed state.

In Punjab, the change of guard happened because Rahul had got a survey done in which only 6% voters were with Captain Amarinder Singh. Chhattisgarh and Punjab must be doing well, but Ashok Gehlot is doing the best.

Gehlot govt faced crisis from within, then there was Corona challenge. Now, the rally was shifted from Delhi to Jaipur. Do you perceive it as a blessing for Gehlot?

200%, blessing in disguise. Even Gehlot would not have thought that he would emerge taller in stature after the rally, he was a natural choice for the rally due to his skills and he proved it.

A few months ago, there was a discussion in Delhi that on lines of Punjab, elections of 2023 in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan would also be fought by putting forward a new face, but after this rally, Gehlot’s stature has risen. Even after this, do you see any leadership change in Raj just before 2023?

Not at all. Once Prashant Kishor had suggested introducing new faces in the three states and there was a thought on this.

But now the situation has changed and that suggestion is completely ruled out. Ashok Gehlot is bound to continue not only in 2023, his claim is till 2028. No change of leadership, no change of face.

How was Pilot, who is called another power centre in Rajasthan Congress, treated in this rally of Gehlot and how was the response of Sonia, Rahul, Priyanka towards Sachin?

His treatment was good. Expectations are the tragedy of life! Sachin has nothing to express his anger or discontent.

He was made to sit in the front row in the rally even though he is just an MLA now while AICC general secretaries sat in the back rows.

Rahul addressed Pilot in his speech and his supporters rejoiced. Priyanka did not take his name, which is not a big issue as Pilot is close to her already. Pilot seems to be the most contended for now.

Some political observers believe that the gap between the stature of Gehlot and Pilot after this rally has widened. Do you think so too?

Apparently, it was not a rally but Gehlot’s Tsunami in which all were washed away, including Pilot. The gap in stature of both is visible and practical after the rally. Political analysts and experts also feel that Gehlot has grown too towering.

Then what will be Pilot’s role in 2023 elections? Will he be able to play an active role in election?

Certainly, he will be visible in an active role. He may become general secretary in AICC but he is a part of active politics in Rajasthan, a senior Congress leader told me.

In 2023, he may get the responsibility of PCC chief or chairman of the election campaign committee.

Gehlot did not even mention Pilot’s name in his speech. Did the distance between the two not reduce even after an hour-long meeting before rally?

The meeting was an initiative from Pilot side, courtesy Ajay Maken who has been trying to bridge gaps between the duo.

Pilot had called and sought time. He had sought time a week ago also but it could not materialise. Both were keen for reconciliation and the meeting was fruitful. Pilot’s not tweeting about it does not matter much.

What do you think about Priyanka’s role in the rally?

Her role was as an observer to assess the rally and she was happy to see presence of large number of women.

“Kahin pe nighein, kahin pe nishan” as some political observers said about Rahul’s political agenda at Jaipur rally. What does this mean?

It is absolutely correct. The issue of inflation was to be raised but BJP’s Hindu agenda was targeted. It, however, disappointed many who wanted to hear about price rise.

Rahul mentioned about price rise but 53 times he mentioned about Hindu and Hindutva.

Will Rahul be able to match the kind of Hindu card that PM Modi played in the midst of a huge crowd at the inauguration ceremony of the Kashi Corridor in Varanasi on December 13?

Tough, very tough. Not only Rahul, it is tough for anyone else. Narendra Modi is a Hero. What has happened in Kashi is unprecedented.

I visited there recently when finishing touches were being given, unprecedented work. PM Modi’s projection has been of Hindu Samrat in Kashi and he is ruling over the hearts of the people. Modi is perfectionist and it is very tough to match him.

What will be the results of philosophy of Hindu and Hindutva explained by Rahul in his speech and will the Congress party get its benefit in the elections of 5 states?

Efforts are there to derive benefit. In the long term, Rahul has set a line of ideology of the party, official or unofficial, for the future. It will give some benefit.

The attempt by Rahul to take a soft line on Hinduism has got negative reaction among Muslim voters of Congress. How will Rahul balance it?

Rahul Gandhi will balance it but he has not much to do as trust and faith of minority community is still with the Congress and alternatives are not there.

There is initial resentment among minority section but time is a big healer and there is not much need for balancing here.

Apart from Gehlot, what was the exact role of Venugopal, Maken, Dotasra, Randeep Surjewala, & Pilot in this rally?

Venugopal’s role was ceremonial. Maken was very active. After Gehlot, the person who has gained prominence in Gandhi family, is Maken.

His role was to bridge gap between Gehlot and Pilot for which he camped here and faced all upheavals. Dotasra has gained a lot in this process as he keeps visiting Delhi and he is a grassroots worker.

Surjewala and Sandeep Chaudhary remained in limelight. Surjewala set the line for the media. He is the third beneficiary of this rally. Pilot’s role was balanced and even got chance to speak there.

Senior Congress leader Dr CP Joshi did not attend the rally?

He is a natural ally of Gehlot. Dr CP Joshi is on a constitutional post as such he did not attend the rally but he was present at CMR during the dinner.

He was given due credit within limitations. I missed the name of Dharmendra Rathore among people who made the rally successful but his contribution was immense.

In Jaipur, Amit Shah had said that BJP will never topple Gehlot government and will form its government in 2023 by taking two-thirds majority. What does this mean?

The big message it sent was that Amit Shah is a great democrat also. He filled enthusiasm in the BJP that party will form government in 2023 with two-thirds majority. For Congress, the message is all doors are closed for those leaving the Gehlot government.

The bargain game is over now. Gehlot is another gainer with this statement. I hope with this Gehlot’s political compulsions will be removed and he will focus on good governance now.

Where has the internal factionalism in the BJP or the fight for the CM’s post reached now? Has high command been able to find a solution to Raje factor?

After Amit Shah’s visit there is no question of anyone using posters with claims for the CM post. As far as Raje factor is concerned, it is a challenge and a big question.

Shah tried to handle it by calling her ‘Yashaswi Mukhyamatri’ and Raje camp is elated over this. Shah did not mention about works of GS Shekhawat.

Without sorting out Raje factor, with or without CM post, there is no chance of winning election, it is my analysis. Her supporters have already made a plan of 200 constituencies in case she is not made CM candidate. But all this is just for show off, for bargain.

I do not think Raje will form a new party although her supporters may instigate her. There may be ED and IT investigations against some and they will go on a backfoot. Raje has threat from people who instigate her to form a new party.

She will not do so. But I agree the BJP has to sort out Raje factor to win elections and the beginning was with Shah’s ‘Yashaswi Mukhyamatri’ address.

What will be the results of philosophy of Hindu and Hindutva explained by Rahul in his speech and will the Congress party get its benefit in the elections of 5 states?

Efforts are there to derive benefit. In the long term, Rahul has set a line of ideology of the party, official or unofficial, for the future. It will give some benefit.

The attempt by Rahul to take a soft line on Hinduism has got negative reaction among Muslim voters of Congress. Now, how will Rahul Gandhi balance it?

Rahul Gandhi will balance it but he has not much to do as trust and faith of minority community is still with the Congress and alternatives are not there.

There is initial resentment among minority section but time is a big healer and there is not much need for balancing here.

Do you also feel that Congress, which is now called Secular, is slowly changing its thinking and moving towards soft Hindutva to counter BJP’s Saffron card?

There are political and election compulsions. There is no harm in this as they are not saying something bitter. They have differentiated between Hindu and Hindutvavad for own convenience.

Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi reached Jaipur but could not attend the rally. Does it send the wrong message in the party and the public?

Of course. Credit and discredit are at the hands of the fate. He came by helicopter and reached around 1.45 and came to know that the rally would be over in 5 minutes.

He waited at the airport and met Sonia and Rahul. Rahul named Channi in his speech and even mentioned that he was sitting on dais. His absence was in poor taste, unfortunate. This is the only embarrassing incident in the whole rally.

What has been the reaction of state BJP and Central leaders on Rahul’s speech? Has the crowd at this rally made state BJP leadership worried?

Worrying is natural due to crowd. BJP leaders must be analysing whether crowd was natural or managed. They would be more careful while making their strategy to handle Gehlot in the next elections.

How do you compare the crowd gathered in Congress rally and the BJP conference held in the presence of Amit Shah in Jaipur just a week before? Which event had more impact?

The basis for comparison between the two is different. Moral booster is a common point for comparison. When Amit Shah came, BJP was divided here and demoralised after two bypoll defeats.

He filled enthusiasm in the party and same happened with the Congress. Shah’s agenda was to warn the factions here.

He also sent a message to Raje camp that they are not sidelined as she was given due credit in the event. Congress rally was to hold a show of strength, to revive its public appearance and to revive authority of the high command.

Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, a BJP chief ministerial candidate, was also in Rajasthan on the same day of the 12 December rally. Did the high command send him to Jaipur to know the impact of the rally?

It may be a coincident. He came to Jaipur and left for Sikar for some event and must have watched rally on TV and assessed. There is very less chance that he was sent by Amit Shah to keep an eye on the rally.

Shekhawat took a jibe at the Jaipur rally while questioning holding of anti-inflation rally in Rajasthan where price of petrol and diesel is already much higher. Is that why Rahul shifted focus of the rally from inflation to Hindutva. Do you also feel so?

No, it does not appear so. The contents of his speech were not work of a single day. BJP leaders have responded to the theory of Rahul. In the coming days, this will remain a main issue between the Congress and the RSS.

In the rally, Gehlot claimed that this grand rally is the beginning of the downfall of NDA. What does this mean? Was he not referring to repeal of 3 agri laws?

The statement is made in enthusiasm in front of a huge crowd and party high command. Withdrawal of 3 agricultural laws, under pressure, also gives hope that the Union government can be made to bend on some other issues too. It is just a thought of Ashok Gehlot that it is the start of downfall of the NDA.

How do you see the statement made by CWC member and senior tribal leader Raghuveer Meena about Sachin Pilot after the rally?

It is a misinterpretation of media reports and nothing else.

Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid had also given the same interpretation of Hindutva in one of his articles just a few days ago, but at that time the party had said that those were his personal views. Now how did this change of heart happen within a month?

Khurshid had written but the party had termed it as his personal opinion. Now, Rahul Gandhi has said same thing here.

Rahul taken his own ideological stand and is not tied with the opinion of the party. Now, on the face value it can be said that Congress and Rahul Gandhi have taken a u-turn on Salman Khurshid matter.

Are talks of Hindu and Hindutva for just to gain power or meant for Hindus?

It is for power, which is a driving force be it Congress or BJP. The issue has evolved in reaction to BJP’s philosophy. It is purely politics.

Despite presence of entire Congress High Command, how do you see G-23 leaders absence from rally even on Gehlot’s call?

After this rally, there is no relevance of G-23 or any such group. But three senior leaders who were part of G-23 namely Anand Sharma, Mukul Wasnik, and Bhupender Singh Hooda, were there.

Some other leaders like Kapil Sibal, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Milind Deora, Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tewari and some others did not come.

Rahul has welcomed the G-23 leaders with open heart and recently offered Ghulam Nabi to become PCC chief in Srinagar, which the latter denied.

Do you think that after this rally Gehlot has confirmed his position in Congress, after Rahul, among those attacking PM Modi?

100%. Whenever a chance comes, Gehlot does not lose it. He has the moral courage to call a spade, a spade. And with his organisational skills shown in the rally, Gehlot is undoubtedly, after Rahul Gandhi, the number 1 person in the party.

It is said that Sonia Gandhi returned to Delhi and shared her passion and feedback about this rally with her senior colleagues. Do you have any information about this?

One of the senior leaders, who accompanied Sonia in the charter plane, informed that she was quite happy with the size of the rally and also with the way it was conducted peacefully.

She praised Gehlot repeatedly in Jaipur too. She was influenced by Gehlot’s organisational skills, which has been there for the last 40 years. He is performing better in organisation as well as in governance.

This rally’s focus was inflation, but in his speech, Rahul focused on Hindu & Hindutva, whereas Hindutva is not an issue in Rajasthan. Was this a well thought out strategy of Rahul in wake of UP polls?

It is true. It was not all of a sudden thought but well thought out. He has advocated earlier also that people from outside Gandhi family should head the party.

What he said in the rally about Gandhi and Godse has started making sense to the people. He has understood that without majoritarianism it is tough to regain power.

He rectified the mistake but it is to be seen how he does the balancing in times to come.

Will the party benefit from Priyanka’s announcement to give 40% of Congress tickets in UP to women?

We cannot say of the party but Priyanka will benefit from it. She has developed a positioning for herself in UP and her popularity has increased with this decision.

Has there been any clarity about Priyanka’s role in Congress or is everything still going on in adhoc manner?

It is still adhoc. First she was given UP in parts then the entire UP was assigned to her when elections came. Now, she was called to Rajasthan for the rally.

Her role has become of a subsidiary with Rahul. The party lost the chance to encash Priyanka factor. A new role of a troubleshooter has emerged for her recently after Punjab and Rajasthan crisis.

Rahul, in his speech, praised works of Punjab & Chhattisgarh CMs, but did not utter a word on Gehlot’s excellent corona management in Rajasthan. What do you think about this?

It should not have happened, not fair. It is true that Gehlot has done exemplary work in Rajasthan in corona management.

The best thing is that no one was left to sleep hungry or without medicine. And if the 3rd wave strikes, Gehlot’s Rajasthan is one of the most well equipped states, medically. Sometimes, a speaker skips some points and should not be looked at beyond this.

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