The party hopes to reconcile the differences between Gehlot and Pilot
Victory, John F Kennedy said, has a thousand fathers. All of them nourish it further, making it grow strong, resilient and confident. The landslide mandate that the Congress received in the recently-concluded Assembly election in Karnataka seems to have galvanised the grand old party in more than one way. It has certainly broken the toxic mix of sloth and inertia on fratricide in Rajasthan. On Monday, the high command summoned Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his political rival and former deputy Sachin Pilot to Delhi. The duo had four-hour-long discussions with Rahul Gandhi and party president Mallikarjun Kharge. “Both leaders have unanimously decided to work together and left the decision on the high command,” senior party leader KC Venugopal reportedly said after the meeting without divulging any details. On the face of it, this was an anodyne statement, but GOP leaders must have heaved a sigh of relief that the two desert warriors sat together after a long time. This is important as the Assembly election in Rajasthan is due later this year, especially as the State is known for changing government every five years. As it is, the no-holds-barred fight between Gehlot and Pilot has hurt the party’s image in the State. Some time ago, the party may have feared a repeat of Rajasthan in Karnataka. Now, having reconciled the differences between Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and State party chief DK Shivakumar, the GOP would like to do a Karnataka in Rajasthan.
It may not be easy, though, for the Congress. The fight between Gehlot and Pilot was quite intense in which many red lines were crossed. Gehlot had made several uncharitable remarks about Pilot. Pilot, on his part, had been denouncing the Gehlot Government over inaction on alleged corruption during the previous BJP government under Vasundhara Raje. The big question is: would Gehlot and Pilot be willing to bury the hatchet? It is not just the GOP leadership but the entire Opposition would like them to, for if that happens, not only the Congress would be in a stronger position to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party in the forthcoming State polls but also in the 2024 general election. Further, as an upshot, the entire Opposition would gain strength. Many Opposition leaders are trying to forge an alliance against the Bharatiya Janata Party. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will be holding a meeting in Patna in a few days; Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar is working towards that end. All these attempts, along with the Congress’ newfound confidence, can make arithmetic favourable for the Opposition, but that may not be enough. As we mentioned earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not the BJP’s solitary trump card; the saffron party has also been able to entrench its narrative in political debate—the narrative of muscular nationalism, Hindutva, and unprecedented infrastructure development. The Opposition doesn’t have a viable alternative to that.