Rajasthan Political Debacle: Congress in turmoil

The turmoil in Rajasthan’s Congress-led government on Sunday gave rise to contrasting political scenarios with experts and political leaders saying developments and negotiations over the next few days could determine the future of the two-year-old administration.

In the 200-member House, where the halfway mark is 101, the ruling alliance currently enjoys the support of 125 legislators.

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The Congress has 107 legislators, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has two, the Bharatiya Tribal Party two, the Rashtriya Lok Dal one; there are 13 independents also backing the government. In the Opposition benches, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 72 lawmakers and the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party has three seats.

To be sure, there is no clarity on the number of legislators backing Pilot (the range of numbers doing the rounds is a wide one, from nine to 30); while ministers in the Gehlot camp insisted the government was safe.

In this backdrop, experts said there were three broad scenarios.

One, the Congress central leadership could swing into action, mollifying Pilot and instructing Gehlot to let his deputy work independently and not infringe on his portfolios. Pilot, who is also the Congress state chief, could come back into the fold if allowed to manage his portfolios independently.

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Already, senior leader Kapil Sibal’s tweet urging the party to wake up hints that efforts are on to mend fences. Key to this resolution would be the party brass convincing Gehlot to budge on some sticking points like appointment of bureaucrats in the four ministries held by Pilot and picking some of the younger leader’s associates to important positions in the party.

Conversations with senior leaders in the Congress also threw up an additional compromise scenario that involved a key point of friction between Gehlot and Pilot: the position of the state party unit chief.

A central Congress leader confirmed that they were in touch with Pilot and lines of communication were open although another leader said that he had stopped taking their calls

Still, this is an unlikely scenario, said people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named. It may have worked six, maybe even two months ago, but is perhaps too late now.

Two, the rebellion within the Rajasthan Congress could grow with more legislators joining the Pilot camp and quitting the party, thereby reducing Gehlot’s government to a minority.

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In this case, these leaders could quit – which would bring down the strength, and the halfway mark, of the House – and subsequently join the BJP, . This is what happened in Madhya Pradesh in March.

The BJP could step in and form the government with allies and independents, and bypolls to the vacant seats would be held within six months.

Three, negotiations in the Congress could break down with Pilot leaving the party along with his supporters and forming a third front.

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