None of the players in Rajasthan’s political drama in the last few days — the sacked former deputy chief minister and state party president Sachin Pilot, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and the party’s central leadership — can be spared the blame for the situation prevailing there now. All of them have their claims, grouses, defence and explanations, but it is unlikely that the events would do any good to any of them. Pilot was in a hurry and made a big gamble, which he may have lost by pushing the party too far to the brink and leaving no escape route for the high command, for the chief minister or for himself. The party would certainly have lost credibility if it conceded the demand to replace Gehlot, who enjoys overwhelming support among the legislators, with a leader who, as it turns out, has the support of only a handful. It is not the first time that the rift between Gehlot and Pilot came out into the open after the party came to power in the state in 2018. But they were papered over and left addressed. Gehlot did not seem to accommodate Pilot, who had worked hard as party president to bring it back to power after the rout in 2013. There were reasons for Pilot to feel targeted and insulted. The distress of Congress leaders like Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor at the unraveling of the party in Rajasthan ignores a basic reality. So long as the central leadership continues to be in limbo, with no clarity if Rahul Gandhi would take over from Sonia Gandhi, interim president since mid-2019, it will remain adrift. A number of senior leaders shudder at the thought of Rahul Gandhi returning as party chief. The bizarre note issued to him by the police in connection with an alleged bid to topple the government would testify to it. But the central leadership of the party is most to blame. In fact, there is no leadership after Rahul Gandhi’s resignation as president in the wake of the 2019 election results. Telephone calls at the last minute to Pilot from all the leaders in Delhi is no way to solve a crisis. While the party should be concerned about the future of its government in Rajasthan after the alienation of some MLAs belonging to the Pilot camp, the greater worry should be about the steady exodus of young leaders from the party in many states. The list is long and includes Jyotiraditya Scindia in Madhya Pradesh, Pradyot Deb Barman in Tripura and many others in other states. The dynastic leadership in the party has proved ineffective in crisis situations and has been unable to hold the party together. Sachin Pilot may be guilty of being overambitious, or even hobnobbing with the BJP, but the leadership of a party is usually challenged only when there is a sense down the line that it is weak and cannot win elections, which is the ultimate standard of success for a political party and its leadership in a democratic system. Pilot has not yet made clear what his future plans are, but the Congress has to ponder much about its future.
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