How Ashok Gehlot managed the crisis | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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How Ashok Gehlot managed the crisis

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByAurangzeb Naqshbandi and Chetan Chauhan
Aug 14, 2020 11:49 PM IST

As the crisis — triggered by the rebellion by now-dismissed deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and doused by a truce call earlier this week — unfolded, Gehlot had his task cut out. He had to fight a two-pronged battle — on the internal and the external fronts. In the end, the outcome was in his favour.

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot won a vote of confidence in the assembly on Friday with the ruling Congress party hoping political uncertainties that erupted in the state in mid-July was over for now.

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As the crisis — triggered by the rebellion by now-dismissed deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and doused by a truce call earlier this week — unfolded, Gehlot had his task cut out. He had to fight a two-pronged battle — on the internal and the external fronts. In the end, the outcome was in his favour.

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While central Congress leaders credit former party president Rahul Gandhi with breaking the ice — he met Pilot on Monday before an announcement on the breakthrough — Gehlot monitored the efforts on the ground to rescue his government.

A challenge for him was to keep the over 100 legislators loyal to him (including those representing allies) together. Hence, they were first taken to the Fairmont Hotel on the outskirts of Jaipur on July 13, a move aimed to ensure there are no defections in the ranks. Then, the MLAs were shifted to a resort in Jailsamer on July 31. They returned to Jaipur only on Thursday, a day before the commencement of the assembly session and after the truce declaration.

His first moral victory came soon after the rebellion began. On July 12, three rebel MLAs of the Congress — Chetan Dudi, Danish Abrar and Rohit Bohra — came back the party fold after Gehlot spoke to them through Bohra’s father Pradyman Singh, a senior Congress leader.

And then, Gehlot identified three independents — Kushveer Singh, Suresh Tak and Om Prakash Hudla — in the Pilot camp who the chief minister thought could return. Gehlot, through his emissaries, got in touch with them, but they expressed their inability to do so.

“This gave him confidence that the government was safe,” a second senior Congress functionary said, requesting anonymity.

Till the end of the tussle and before the peace deal, Pilot had the support of 18 Congress dissidents and the three independents.

Gehlot also attacked the BJP’s high command, accusing it of trying to topple the government — a charge repeatedly denied by the opposition party. He remained soft on the state BJP leadership, trying to project what he called differences in the opposition party.

Congress leaders said Gehlot steered the party’s legal strategy from issuing show-cause notices to the 19 rebel Congress MLAs to drafting requests to state governor Kalraj Mishra for an assembly session without mentioning the trust vote on the agenda.

When the governor insisted on a 21-day notice to convene a session, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Gehlot. “He agreed for 21 days once he got reports that the rebel camp was getting jittery over the prolonged crisis,” said the second Congress party leader, privy to the developments.

A third Congress leader, on the condition of anonymity, pointed out that another challenge for Gehlot was to keep the morale of his camp high as the crisis dragged on. For that, he would every day visit the legislators supporting him at the resort on the outskirts f Jaipur, and later frequent the Jaisalmer resort.

“He gave a pep talk to legislators almost every day and appreciated their patience in dealing with the crisis. He would stay with them till 2.30-3.00am and urge them to ensure that the BJP’s designs do not succeed,” added the third leader.

Gehlot also wrote a letter to all legislators, including those from the BJP, reminding them how he, as the Rajasthan Congress president in 1996, prevented an attempt to topple the government of then chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat of the BJP.

And in the final phases of the crisis, when the Congress leadership brokered a truce with Pilot and his supporters, the CM sent out a peace message and asked the legislators backing him to bury the hatchet and unite again.

Before going for the floor test, Gehlot shook hands and hugged Pilot at a Congress meeting at the chief minister’s residence in a show of unity, in an indication that he had left behind the bitterness of the past month involving his personal attacks on the rebel camp.

Political analyst Narayan Bareth said the resolution of the month-long crisis has bolstered Gehlot and underscored his political acumen.

“Gehlot made it appear that it was another attempt of the central BJP leadership to overthrow another Congress-ruled state. Except his comments against Pilot, Gehlot’s strategy was flawless, he said.

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