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Gehlot continues to be Gandhis’ first choice in Rajasthan! Pilot is a smart politician, but has lost the semi-final!
With an eye on winning 2023 Assembly polls in Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot has tried to do a balancing act in his recent Cabinet reshuffle.
In The New JC Show, Editor-In-Chief of First India, Jagdeesh Chandra aptly analyses the message this mega-much-awaited rejig sends to Congressmen in general and the public at large that Rajasthan Congress is United for Mission 2023!
Q. Is Rahul’s thinking about Rajasthan limited to Cabinet reshuffle or there is something more in his mind?
Ans. As I said in an earlier JC Show that there are 2 possibilities. If Home, Finance, and UDH has been allotted to Pilot camp people, then it would have been considered as 1st step of transfer of power or semi final and there could be talk of 2nd phase. But it did not happen.
There is no possibility of leadership change so far in Rajasthan and Pilot camp people have been defected in semi-final as Home, Finance, & UDH was not allotted to them.
There are indications of another reshuffle after Budget session by May. Will then too camps and loyalty will be considered or there will be talk of delivery too?
What happens in May or not, is only a damage control exercise. There are talks of 6 people being dropped due to various reasons and the new inductees have a sword of performance hanging on them.
There may be a reshuffle in May but Gehlot has contained the attack of Pilot camp by allowing inclusion of just 5 people from his camp.
Pilot was also present on the dais along with Gehlot, Maken and Dotasra at the ceremony to welcome the new ministers at the PCC head office before the swearing-in ceremony on November 21 but Pilot was not invited to speak. How do you see all this development?
This seemed strange to me also. At least Maken could have invited Pilot to sit near him, brought Gehlot-Pilot together and flash victory sign.
But nothing of the sort did not happen. I asked Dotasra about the treatment to Pilot and no chance to give him time to speak.
Dotasra said that there was no such thing as other senior leaders like Dr Raghu Sharma were also there. And the differences between Gehlot-Pilot are not bridged that much.
Q. Is there any political significance to Vasundhara Raje’s yatra, which appears to be a religious journey? Do you think there is some political angle behind this?
Ans. 100%. A person and a politician cannot be separated. Yatra is purely political. It is wrong that she is did not take the high command in confidence, she informed the senior leaders. Important thing is the response of the public.
There is no doubt that among the present BJP leaders in Rajasthan, she is the only crowd puller. If the BJP high command considers that only she can bring back the party to the power, she will be projected as the CM face.
She is continuing dialogue with the Central leaders and things are improving as Ashok Parnami recently said that 2023 will be contested under Raje’s leadership.
Some people say that Gehlot-Maken relationship remained a bit uneasy during the last few months due to ideological differences over the issue of return of Pilot camp people to the cabinet but in the last one week the decision making process related to reshuffle both the leaders looked very close to each other. How do you see all these developments?
It is factually correct. When Maken resumed charge, he was all out a Gehlot man. With change in time, things changed.
Maken told Gehlot that promises made to Pilot have to be completed and as in-charge it is his responsibility. He forwarded the agenda but it did not appeal Gehlot that date for his cabinet and political appointments is being announced by some other person in Delhi.
It seem contemptuous to him so differences and communication gap started cropping up. Maken put pressure on Gehlot after directions from the high command, which Gehlot did not like.
But Sonia finally told Gehlot to go ahead with cabinet expansion and appointments. At present, the mission of Maken is completed and relations are normal between Gehlot and Maken.
Q. The number of people of the Pilot camp in the cabinet who have got or are going to be placed, is it not more than the expectations of the Pilot camp?
Ans. Expectations are the tragedy of life. Everything happened as per wish of Pilot camp but they are demanding 6 persons but no on is satisfied.
Apparently, neither the high command, nor the Gehlot camp, nor the Pilot camp are happy from inside. The Pilot camp has got more than what the people and the media had expected. But no one is satisfied.
There are talks in Delhi and Jaipur, and especially among people associated with the Pilot camp, that the Congress will fight the 2023 elections in Rajasthan with a new face and that face will be Pilot. What is your analysis about all this?
As far as CM face is concerned, Pilot could be the face if the semi-final was won but it did not happen. At present, there is no talk of changing of the face. If the high command decides, as a policy decision, to change the CM face, after assessing the Punjab results, then it is a different matter. Then Gehlot’s nominee will be the CM.
Q. Looking at the impression of the pilot camp in the cabinet, it seems that the high command and especially Priyanka Gandhi has been under tremendous pressure from Pilot. After all, what is it that forces the Gandhi family to obey everything that Pilot says?
Ans. As far as Priyanka Gandhi is concerned, she had promised to Ahmed Patel about ghar wapsi of Pilot and his people about which Gehlot was not comfortable.
She was just fulfilling her moral commitment and not working under pressure. Secondly, Priyanka is worried that Pilot may leave even though he has said he would not leave.
But there is threat of him leaving after instances of Scindia and Jitin Prasada. Party also does not want that young people do not leave the party.
Q. How much attention has been given to social engineering, caste equations and regional balance in this reshuffle? And will Congress get its benefit in 2023.
Ans. The concept of social engineering in Rajasthan is given by Ashok Gehlot as he has given representation to all castes, minorities, and women.
But regional balances could not be achieved, may be due to political compulsions. But overall, it is a good combination.
Gehlot has learnt the mind of Rahul Gandhi and stamped his cabinet as per that. SC/ST got more than expected.
Q. Is it true that the decision to include Hemaram Choudhary, who became a minister from the quota of Pilot camp, was taken at the last moment in the cabinet?
Ans. He was lucky to become a minister. Deependra Singh Shekhawat could have replaced him but it did not happen due to some factors. In place of Hemaram, Madan Prajapat from Barmer was to become a minister but Hemaram got the pie.
Q. What future do you see for the three ministers, Govind Singh Dotasra, Dr. Raghu Sharma and Harish Chaudhary, who were removed from the cabinet due to them shifting to the organisation?
Ans. Dotasra is PCC chief and meeting the Central ministers as such he is happy. Harish Chaudhary is also happy as he wanted to shift from Rajasthan and work in the organisation.
Dr Raghu Sharma may be in dilemma but he got elevation and has got closer to the high command. He has got charge of Gujarat and he may turn tables there.
Q. Perhaps for the first time, the quickness and speed shown by Gehlot in getting the announcement of new ministers and advisors without any waiting has sent a very good message in the political and administrative fields? Do you consider this a good start too?
Ans. Yes, it is a good governance and a good beginning otherwise people keep guessing and remain worried. But delay in political appointments and parliamentary secretaries is washing away the credit.
The leadership must decide these two factors without any further delay now to maintain the credibility and credit achieved recently.
Q. The Opposition has raised questions on the appointment of advisors and has written a letter to the Governor against it? What will you say about it?
Ans. The Opposition’s role is to raise issues but this issue has not weight. They may approach the court but it will take time. Their stand might be legally valid but at present nothing is going to happen on this.
Q. Some people say that a long army of ministers, advisors and potential parliamentary secretaries has been created at the government expenses, which has sent a wrong message. Is it true?
Ans. Certainly it happens. Public never appreciates government expenses. Gehlot has always advocated austerity measures but in the political compulsions, many of his ideals have been washed away.
Q.. Will the work of complete formation of PCC be completed after this reshuffle? And is there any possibility of change of PCC Chief Dotasra too?
Ans. At the larger stage, Dotasra’s ouster seems impossible at least till 2023. He is grass root worker and he has clarity in his vision.
He has said that by December 31 he will complete work of appointments in the PCC in two phases and the party will revamp.
And it is for the first time that PCC chief and the CM are on same wavelength, which is necessary to smoothly run a government.
Q. What future do you see now for Rohit Bohra and Danish Abrar, who came to the rescue of the government after leaving the Pilot camp hoping to become ministers in the cabinet reshuffle?
Ans. Actual mein to chot ho gayi in dono ke saath, in a layman’s language. (Actually, they have been hit hard). They were welcomed to save the government.
Rohit Bohra’s claim was nullified as his father Pradyuman Singh was made chairman of the State Finance Commission.
He may become a parliamentary secretary. Danish Abrar is being projected as a minority face and Gehlot is doing damage control.
Q. Is the decision of the high command to not include first time MLAs in the cabinet a conservative thinking of a progressive party and will it not discourage the new talent in the party?
Ans. The mandate of Rahul Gandhi has amended to take youth and old guard along. I personally feel that the new talent should get a chance and some new MLAs are exceptionally brilliant.
One of them is Rafeek Khan, who understands any issues quickly. There are more such MLAs. Gehlot should break this myth and he should include new faces.
Q. With the entry of two new women faces – Shakuntala Rawat and Zahida – in the cabinet and Mamta Bhupesh already there, women MLAs now have 10% representation in the cabinet. Will women be fielded in 40% of seats in the 2023 Rajasthan assembly elections on the lines of Priyanka Gandhi's UP model?
Ans. It can be done. Gehlot is progressive in such matters. Priyanka asked him to increase representation and he agreed. If the UP results are favourable, she may advice Gehlot to follow the model in Rajasthan also.
In this process of reshuffle, what are the bitter sips for both Gehlot and Pilot camps? BJP’s central leaders had eye on Rajasthan. Will they continue to keep an eye here?
It is job of leaders to keep an eye and they will do so. BJP leadership now has more issues like UP elections so focus on.
Q. How do you see allegations of corruption in teacher transfers in the presence of Chief Minister and Education Minister Govind Singh Dotasra himself?
Ans. The incident is unfortunate. Corruption is universal. The CM jokingly asked the teachers whether they had to pay bribe for transfers and the positive reply sent a message that the CM targeted Dotasra but it was not so.
Dotasra was, however, hurt with reply of teachers and he offered to resign if charges are proven. Gehlot did damage control the next day by clarifying on the issue.
Q. What message did the portfolio allocation after 24 hours sent? Have expectations of Pilot camp been fulfilled?
Ans. Such exercise takes time but it did not take longer time and it can be ignored. Expectations have no limits. Hemaram got forest and environment, which are critical departments.
Vishvendra Singh got tourism, which is also important department. Ola got a good transport department. Murari Lal got agri marketing, which is an empire associated with grass root.
From Gehlot camp, Dhariwal retained UDH, BD Kalla got education and whoever has education dept 2 years before the elections that minister loses the election.
It is risky venture for him. Parsadi Lal Meena, Shakuntla Rawat, and Mahenderjeet Malviya have got good departments. Gehlot had his way in portfolio allocation.