Rajasthan Congress wants to repeat its 2018 feat with the same strategy — by not announcing a Chief Minister candidate.
But a lot of water has flown in Chambal since then.
First, former deputy CM Sachin Pilot led Congress to victory in the 2018 assembly elections as Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief.
But Govind Singh Dotasara is the PCC chief now who doesn't have an impressive track record.
"Dotasara couldn't travel across the state like Pilot, nor was he able to connect with the ground workers like Pilot," Mamoon Khan, a Congress worker in Bundi told Swarajya.
From an organisational point of view, Dotasara failed to appoint office-bearers. In his tenure of three years, he appointed only 13 district presidents, out of which four have already resigned.
Only 39 members have been appointed to the state working committee, while the appointment of 85 secretaries is still midway as the party's high command put a stay on it.
However, Dotasara's tenure is set to end on 14 July and Congress workers are waiting for a new PCC chief to strengthen the organisation.
Second, Sachin Pilot and CM Ashok Gehlot have not really come together after the 2020 rebellion. They have been seen publicly criticising each other on multiple occasions.
While Pilot said that he is satisfied after the Thursday (6 July) meeting, where the decision to not announce a CM candidate was taken, it is unlikely that he will contest with the same energy as that in 2018.
Congress workers in the state feel that there can be no one better than Pilot for the post of PCC chief, but they also say he might not be willing to take up the post after he was humiliatingly removed from that post.
Also, Pilot might think that he was not rewarded well for his hard work during the 2018 elections. And without complete assurance, he might not be in the mood to completely devote himself.
What lies ahead for Congress
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is too not announcing the CM candidate, its workers are clear that it is Vasundhara Raje Scindia, at least for now and the party's high command has also given the same signals.
On the other hand, Congress workers are confused in this regard. Some have Gehlot in their mind, while some others want to see Pilot as the CM.
This confusion will manifest in its election campaigning where the party will not be able to communicate itself precisely and clearly.
However, by not naming a CM candidate, the Congress can dodge the anti-incumbency that is a trend in the state and led to the BJP debacle in 2018 with Vasundhara Raje as CM face.
Also, when Congress will campaign in election about its schemes, Gehlot may appear as the natural leader as he was the one who implemented them as CM.
Another point is that, while senior Congress leaders are showing confidence by saying that they have Rahul Gandhi's and Mallikarjun Kharge's faces, they might not compete well against PM Modi's face.
A general phenomenon has been seen across the country that when BJP is not in power, they win elections using Modi's face until and unless a strong regional leader is there to oppose them. But the Congress is hesitant to put forward a single face.
The ticket distribution is going to be a tug of war between Gehlot and Pilot camps. Whoever gets more tickets on his side, will try harder to win, so that he can claim CMship. While the other camp will try to defeat the frontrunner camp's candidates.
"Gehlot made many independents contest the elections last time too," as Pilot was the PCC chief, "which caused loss to the Congress," political observer from Rajasthan, Satya Chaudhary told Swarajya.
He further speculates that this time both camps will more openly stand against each other. If Congress wins, the power tussle will again jolt the party.
The Congress conundrum
Gehlot enjoys a good rapport with the Congress high command. That's how he managed to get Pilot removed from the deputy CM post after the 2020 rebellion. He also got Dotasara, considered close to Gehlot, appointed as the PCC chief, replacing Pilot.
Some may argue that Gehlot is old and a young leader like Pilot should get a chance but that concept doesn't work in Congress.
Gehlot is 72 years old, while a couple of months back 75-year-old Siddaramaiah took oath as the Karnataka CM. Captain Amarinder Singh was a Congress CM in Punjab at the age of 79 a couple of years ago and there are many more such examples.
However, Congress workers in eastern Rajasthan want to see Pilot as the next CM. "Power has filled ministers with arrogance, while Pilot is very humble and treats workers nicely," Ramu Sharma told Swarajya appreciating Pilot.
Sharma is a Congress worker for three decades and lives in Jaipur. He said that Congress should reward those who work hard on the ground, pointing towards Pilot.
Coming to the influence, undoubtedly, Gehlot has a larger mass following than Pilot. He has served as CM of Rajasthan for three terms and is a tried and tested personality for the people of the state.
Whereas Pilot is a rising leader but still holds prominent influence on only around 40 of the 200 assembly seats which is Gujjar dominated area of eastern Rajasthan, while Rajputs and Brahmins don't like him.
In such a scenario, it will make no sense to drop Gehlot at this point of time. The best possible case for the party will be to get Pilot along.
However, the post of PCC chief or deputy CMship might not be enough to woo Pilot. It remains to be seen how Congress manages to get the two leaders in the same boat while riding against the waves of anti-incumbency.
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