Rasheeda Bhagat

Fallouts of the Rajasthan political crisis

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on July 27, 2020

While the office of the Governor has hardly distinguished itself, the Congress is paying the price for bypassing its young leaders

Even though it is a universally accepted fact that politics and politicians can stoop to new lows, the ongoing slugfest between the Ashok Gehlot government and the Rajasthan Governor, Kalraj Mishra, is a fresh blow to democracy.

The BJP seems to be giving a tough competition to the Congress in its decades-old practice of horse-trading and toppling democratically-elected governments.

In early March, as India faced a looming crisis on the Covid pandemic front, obliging the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre to deploy every resource at its command to contain the lethal virus, the BJP’s top leadership was busy toppling the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh. A BJP Chief Minister was sworn in on March 23 in Bhopal. And, India went into an ill-planned lockdown, giving barely a few hours’ notice, on March 28. But that’s another story

Coming to the current political circus in Rajasthan, unfortunately for the BJP, toppling the Congress government in the State is proving a bigger headache, with Ashok Gehlot having a far larger majority than what his counterpart Kamal Nath had in Madhya Pradesh.

Gehlot’s sacked deputy, Sachin Pilot, along with 18 other rebel MLAs, facing a disqualification notice from the Assembly Speaker, might just fail to deliver the goods to the pied piper.

Unlike in M.P., where Kamal Nath had a slim majority which helped the BJP-backed Jyotiraditya Scindia to easily topple the government, in Rajasthan’s 200-member Assembly, even without the 19 rebels, Gehlot is still comfortable with the support of 105 Congress MLAs (including six BSP MLAs who have joined the Congress), 12 independents and five from smaller parties. Prior to Pilot’s rebellion, the Gehlot government had support from 124.

So, as of now, Gehlot can win the trust vote, the caveat being the BJP’s inability to wean away half a dozen stray sheep. That’s all it will take. It is now a strange situation, the BJP-Pilot combine has been ambushed is by Gehlot demanding a quick convening of the Assembly where he can prove his majority. As soon as the House meets, the CLP leader will issue a whip and the rebels, if they vote against the government, stand to lose all. Once they are disqualified, the House strength falls to 181, further strengthening Gehlot’s position.

But Governor Mishra — no prizes for guessing at the behest of whom — has so far stalled the convening of the Assembly, blaming the Congress MLAs for gheraoing the Raj Bhavan, seeking “clarifications”, etc. He has also chided the Gehlot government for the rapid increase in Covid infections, a laughable charge, as it assumes that politicians, who are either trying to topple a government (read M.P.) or save one, care a twit about their citizens’ health.

If Pilot’s rebellion, instigated or not by the BJP, fails to topple the Gehlot government, the BJP will have little use for him and he might be left in the wilderness.

Congress, the biggest loser

But the core issue is the total failure of the Congress leadership to allow breathing space for its younger, dynamic leaders. The spectacular victories the party managed to pull off in both Rajasthan and M.P. at the peak of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity in 2018, had more than ample contribution from both Scindia in M.P. and Pilot in Rajasthan. Against expectation that they might be made chief ministers, as they offered a new hope to a nation with a massive young population, Kamal Nath and Gehlot, with wider support among MLAs, dug in their heels, and walked away with the CM’s gaddi.

With no love lost between the old guard and the younger aspirants, the infighting was common knowledge. As the Congress high command, left reeling by the BJP’s spectacular win in the general elections, did little to contain the infighting, the BJP got the required wedge to first topple the M.P. government — Karnataka before that — and sharpen its knives now in Rajasthan. Whether it saves the Rajasthan government or not, the Congress has lost two of its most promising leaders in Scindia and Pilot, a disastrous development in a party already bankrupt in leadership.

Chalo Mumbai will definitely be the BJP’s next step, and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has already dared the BJP to do it now “rather than in September or October”.

But the biggest loser, along with the Congress, is the institution of the Governor. Mishra has bent over backwards, listening to his master’s voice in Delhi and unduly delayed convening of an Assembly session. A Governor is supposed to go by the Council of Ministers’ advice and not wait for an aye or a nay from Delhi. It is time we abolished this useless and money-gobbling office of Governor, which every party in the country has misused and continues to do so.

Published on July 27, 2020

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