Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai)

How the Raj impasse is different from MP saga

- HT Correspond­ent letters@hindustant­imes.com

NEWDELHI: The Congress’ decision to sack Sachin Pilot from both deputy chief ministersh­ip and state unit presidency of the party in Rajasthan — and Pilot’s open rebellion over the past few days — has thrown up comparison­s with Madhya Pradesh.

In MP, Jyotiradit­ya Scindia — the party’s young and popular face — walked out in March, along with legislator­s loyal to him, and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), leading to the ouster of the Kamal Nath government, and the subsequent installati­on of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.

But there are significan­t difference­s between the two states. Here are three such variations:


Rajasthan’s CM Ashok Gehlot is a political veteran, who is serving as CM for the third time. In contrast, Kamal Nath — while being a senior leader — was a newcomer to state politics, having been almost entirely in national politics. MP, for him, for much of his political career, was largely limited to his Lok Sabha constituen­cy of Chhindwara.

He was resourcefu­l, but lacked the ground experience, control over all regions of the state, and skills of political management.

Gehlot — as reflected in his current legislativ­e strength — appears to have a firmer grasp over the party organisati­on. He has grown up in Rajasthan politics, from ground-up. His network in each constituen­cy is formidable. Gehlot’s caste identity — he is a Mali, belonging to the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category — is seen as relatively neutral in the otherwise bitter caste-driven politics of the state; the scattered nature of his community across the state also gives him an edge. Gehlot also has good links with both the old guard and the younger leadership of the Congress in Delhi, which explains the prompt and unequivoca­l support he has got in this current battle.


The MP assembly election results of 2018 was fragmented. In the house of 230 members, Congress won 114 seats and the BJP trailed behind, just narrowly, 109 seats. The Congress won the support of smaller parties and independen­ts to form the government under Kamal Nath.

But the narrow difference in seats left the BJP smelling an opportunit­y. This presented itself when Scindia — unhappy at how the party leadership has failed in ensuring what he saw as a just distributi­on of power in the state, and Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh’s attitude towards his group — decided to walk out with 22 MLAS loyal to him.

This reduced the size of the assembly, ensured the Nath government slid into a minority, and enabled the BJP to stake claim to form the government and prove majority.

In Rajasthan, by contrast, while the Congress had just about reached the half-way mark — in the assembly of 200 members, it won 100 seats — it was able to secure the support of other parties and independen­ts and bolster its strength.

The BJP, by comparison, won 73 seats This leaves the gap wider and makes it more challengin­g for the BJP to oust the Gehlot government. It also means that Pilot will need to muster up greater strength to be able to effect a change in government.

DIFFERING AMBITIONS OF THE YOUNG TURKS While Scindia is invested in the politics of MP and has a mass base in the state, his immediate aspiration­s did not revolve around seeking leadership in the state. The BJP, which already had Chouhan as a prominent leader and former CM, too, found it politicall­y easier to get him back in the saddle.

Scindia’s loyalists were accommodat­ed in the state cabinet, but Scindia himself was elected to the Rajya Sabha. There is speculatio­n that a greater national role is planned for him.

In contrast, Pilot’s ambition appears state-centric at the moment. He was keen to become CM while he was leading the Congress in the elections; he fought hard to ensure that it was him, rather than Gehlot, who got the seat; his camp’s demand over the past week has revolved around ensuring that he becomes CM. This, then, complicate­s the situation on two counts.

One, it is not clear that Pilot has the numbers. But two, it is also not clear if the BJP will be willing to accommodat­e this ambition — given that it has a set of its own leaders in the state. It is instructiv­e that the party has not made a single leader who has shifted from another party a CM in any state where it is in power.

At the same time, there is a remarkable similarity in the two episodes — particular­ly with the regard to the inability of the Congress leadership in retaining its top talent.

Whether Pilot goes the Scindia way, and whether Rajasthan goes the MP way, remains to be seen.

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