Just as it seemed that Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot was getting chummy with the Congress party’s higher-ups, things took quite a turn on Sunday when a group of nearly 90 MLAs in the state resigned in a show of solidarity with Gehlot.
Gehlot is reportedly contesting for the post of party president in the upcoming election. Should he win, he will no longer remain the chief minister. There's a prospect of Sachin Pilot becoming the chief minister and this seemingly does not sit well with the MLAs who support Gehlot. Pilot had rebelled against Gehlot’s leadership in 2020.
The MLAs have demanded that either Gehlot continue as chief minister or someone from their camp be his successor.
The ongoing drama has raised many questions about the Congress’s leadership and its future. Here is a look at what the top English dailies have to say on the matter.
The Delhi edition of the Indian Express said that the “political crisis in Rajasthan is as much the creation of Chief Minister and Congress Presidential candidate Ashok Gehlot as it is of the Congress high command, which assumed it could ignore the voice of the Congress Legislature Party and force its will on legislators”.
The whole “episode” makes the Congress central leadership look “diminished, clueless and ineffectual”, the editorial said.
“The party’s Rajasthan crisis points to a flawed communication strategy within. The party leadership seems to have made different promises to different people in a bid to reconcile their differences only to realise that it may no longer command the authority to enforce its word,” it added.
The editorial goes on to say that any “bungle” by the party’s leadership “could lead to the unravelling of the party in Rajasthan and cast a shadow over the impending election to the party president’s office”.
The Times of India also carried an editorial in its Delhi edition. Headlined “Pilot Error”, it points out how Gehlot was perceived as the Gandhis proxy candidate for the post of president. “The Gandhis have faced embarrassment of late, but none this bad,” the editorial said. “It’s not just a loss of face, it’s a stark reminder that strong state leaders can now try and dictate terms to the family and, most of all, that the Gandhis can be seemingly truly out-of-touch with political realities."
It added that Gehlot’s reaction to Pilot becoming CM should have been anticipated by the Gandhis. “Gehlot’s pre-eminent position in the Rajasthan Congress and his desire to take up the president’s post on his own terms should have prompted the weakened Gandhi family to yield.”
As for what this could mean for Gehlot, the editorial said, “The family’s perception of Gehlot as the best of their loyalists to succeed Sonia Gandhi could change now. In that case other loyalists may throw their hat into the ring.”
In its editorial, the Hindustan Times said that the drama has “proved that the three-time CM holds influence over an overwhelming majority of the party’s elected state representatives and brought back memories of Punjab, another state where the Congress was well-placed before a destabilising factional battle decimated the unit and torpedoed its poll prospects last year".
The editorial ripped into the Gandhis and the lack of “internal challenge” in the party. “The writ of the Gandhis continued to run – in the party’s response to issues; in deciding who would be CM and who wouldn’t; and how and when internal party elections would be held,” it said. “Irrespective of how the situation in Rajasthan plays out, it is now evident that this has changed and that there are now serious internal challenges as well. This isn’t surprising – the continued poor electoral performance eventually will and should reflect on leadership, just as a company’s poor results do on its CEO."
It also noted that Gehlot’s insistence that he pick his successor is “a rare instance of public defiance of the high command’s wishes by someone considered close and loyal to the Gandhis”.
A weekly guide to the best of our stories from our editors and reporters. Note: Skip if you're a subscriber. All subscribers get a weekly, subscriber-only newsletter by default.