Political Correspondent, Jaipur: Prime Minister Narendra Modi showered praises on Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot during the virtual inauguration of several projects in the state recently. This open display of affection has not escaped the attention of political observers. More than the camaraderie itself, it is the timing of such a show that has triggered discussions.
Just the previous day, former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was in New Delhi to meet Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Singh, who stepped down from his post following his ‘insult’ in the party, has been quite vocal about his displeasure with the Congress leadership since then.
The ‘friendship’ between PM Modi, known to mock Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, and Gehlot is no hidden secret. But, the reiteration of this ‘bonding’ in such tumultuous times is raising many an eyebrow.
In the backdrop of Punjab’s political crisis and the buzz about a major overhaul in Rajasthan as well, the heightened interest of BJP stalwarts in ‘sulking’ or ‘insecure’ Congress leaders can be detrimental to the interest of these leaders if they are hoping to hold on to their place of significance within the grand old party.
“People may call it Gehlot’s diplomacy. But, it will not prevent others from comparing Modi’s generosity towards Gehlot with his (Modi’s) Rajya Sabha emotional outburst for Ghulam Nabi Azad who has distanced himself from Gandhi family. Modi shed tears during his farewell speech at Azad’s retirement from the Upper House,” said a senior Congress leader.
The political crisis in Punjab has delayed Cabinet realignment in Rajasthan where former state Congress president Sachin Pilot is strongly pushing for power sharing in the current dispensation.
“Gehlot is under pressure. The moment Punjab CM Amarinder exited, Gehlot, who was recuperating from his heart ailment for last two months, started attending office and meeting people. Cabinet reshuffle is inevitable now. The question is how many of Pilot’s close aides will get an entry in the power corridor,” said another Congress leader.
Meanwhile, Sachin Pilot’s residence has started getting visitors in large numbers. If this phenomenon is any political indication, the party may go for expansion irrespective of instability in Punjab. Pilot, however, is keeping distance from media, nor is any of his confidant speaking about participation in the government.
“It’s wait-and-watch for Pilot. He has met Rahul Gandhi twice recently and might have shared his thoughts. Now, the ball is in Gandhi’s court. Pilot will not make haste. Since Gehlot is a committed Congressman with no blemish whatsoever, unlike Amarinder, the party will act only after taking him (Gehlot) into confidence,” said Rakesh Saini, a political observer.
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