Opinion | Ashok Gehlot: Revolt of the faithful

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. Photo: PTI.

In an earlier column, I mentioned the paradox of action in the context of Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra. The paradox of action is the distance between intention and fate.

Rahul wants to unite a divided India beyond Congress party politics. That is the intention. In a way, this is coming true. The party itself is disappearing (the paradox), as worked out by fate in Rajasthan.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, Sachin Pilot and others during the 14th day of party's 'Bharat Jodo Yatra' in Kochi. Photo: PTI

Rahul Gandhi could not have anticipated the debacle in Rajasthan as a fallout of his yatra. Sonia Gandhi and their loyalists might have. But they continue to overestimate their importance -- yet another paradox.

There are two things that Sonia Gandhi did wrong in regard to the impending party presidential election which have resulted in the Rajasthan situation, likely the final nail in the party’s coffin. One is to have an official candidate as opposed to Shashi Tharoor’s ‘rebel’ option.

Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi addresses party leaders during the party's 'Nav Sankalp Chintan Shivir', in Udaipur. PHOTO: PTI

The fact was that Tharoor is responsible and diplomatic enough to have protected the interests of the ‘old guard.’

Shashi Tharoor. Photo: PTI.

The second miscalculation that led to the Rajasthan situation is to have honoured Rahul Gandhi’s injunction, ‘one man, one post'. In real politics, such wishes in spartan integrity do not work.

If Rahul Gandhi had not chosen to go on his long walk away from Delhi and accepted the universal demand for him to be the president of the party, none of this is likely to have happened.

But since he is doing his own things, why break the party to honour his ‘one man, one post’ demand?

Ashok Gehlot, Rajasthan CM, heads one of the two Congress dispensations -- Chhattisgarh being the other -- in India.

He has stood by the Gandhi family, funded the party, stood up to the shenanigans of the BJP, and championed Rahul Gandhi for the presidency of the party.

In the eyes of his supporters (93 MLAs) and his own, he has done nothing wrong, and everything right by the state and the Gandhi family.

Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot. File Photos.

Why would he resign from his political base and position as CM, which he almost single-handedly achieved, to the advantage of his rival in the party, Sachin Pilot, and become just the president of the party? It would be political suicide for him.

If the Gandhis wanted to play fair, Sachin Pilot could have been made their official choice for the party presidency.

But the Gandhi family and their advisors have, instead, gone and stirred Gehlot's nest and now everyone is walking around with swollen faces.

Indeed, now the cruel and necessary thing to do would be to let Gehlot continue as CM in Rajasthan and give him the party’s presidency. This would be a climb-down for the Family. But it is better than the party's dissolution.

Again, this would mean not respecting Rahul Gandhi’s wishes. Compared to what is happening now, not respecting Rahul would have been just an internal family matter resolved over a glass of wine.

In any case, Rahul has little moral right to set conditions besides the fact that he is a Gandhi. And since he is in any case walking away from the given structure of the party, his words in this respect could have been ignored, and the Rajasthan situation avoided.

We must remember that even as Congress delivers death blows to itself, the BJP is already planning its 2024 elections campaign. And the party and affiliated organizations are busy with the other, usual flotilla things.

The RSS is starting, perhaps justly from their anti-colonial point of view, five Vidya Bharati universities to ‘bring about positive changes in education.’

Again, on Tuesday, the media reported that the Union government has ‘discontinued nearly 100 awards and several fellowships in the field of science.’ What it may do to the growth of research and the so-called scientific temperament is not clear.

In another putative effort at, no doubt, well-intentioned silencing, the government has blocked 45 videos on 10 YouTube channels. These measures within a space of 24 hours may not be as ominous as one fears. But one is by now conditioned to fear the worst -- both from the traditionally entitled Left and the vengefully recidivist Right.

That this country has no Opposition is not a new thing to discover or say. But, that there is not one leader that the people are throwing up to fill the vacuum in the Oppositional space speaks for something: that the people no longer care.

They just want to get on and have a financially secure life. The Modi government makes convincing noises in that direction. If this country had ideals, they no longer work, or those have suffered a drastic transformation. Whichever it is, the Congress Party is not IT.

(C P Surendran is an author and senior journalist. Views are personal)

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