Due to the growing political pressure being exerted by the rebels led by Sachin Pilot, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is likely to expand his Cabinet this week. Pilot, who is camping in Delhi and in touch with Priyanka Gandhi, has been insisting that the MLAs who sided with him during last year’s rebellion should be accommodated in the expansion.
Gehlot has been deferring the expansion under the pretext of the COVID-19 pandemic, but now he is finding it difficult to ignore the demand for an expansion.
After the Pilot camp raised its voice by issuing public statements, the AICC organisation secretary KC Venugopal and the AICC in-charge for Rajasthan Ajay Maken has suggested Gehlot to expand the Cabinet. Maken has been in touch with Pilot and it is learnt that Pilot is insisting on an immediate expansion.
Pilot camp not ready to wait
Gehlot is insisting that he would do the expansion in July, but the Pilot camp has lost patience and it has sent signals that it would not wait any longer. Gehlot has been meeting the party’s MLAs on this issue.
The Congress-led ruling alliance comprises of 106 Congress MLAs, 13 independents, one RLD MLA, two Bhartiya Tribal Party MLAs and the two CPI (M) MLAs. The alliance partners are also demanding an expansion. Thus, with a total of 124 MLAs, Gehlot can accommodate 30 ministers in his Cabinet. The Pilot group claims it has the support of 18 dissidents.
But, Speaker CP Joshi, who is a former Union minister, is keen to join the government as a deputy chief minister. Gehlot is not keen to accommodate Joshi as the deputy Chief Minister. There is speculation that Gehlot would be pursued to take up the responsibility as the AICC national executive president and help the party to rejuvenate it. In that case, Joshi could become the chief minister.
In 2008, Joshi, who was the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president, was in reckoning to become the chief minister, but he lost the Assembly election by a single vote in Nathdwara. Later, he contested the Lok Sabha election and became a Union minister under Manmohan Singh.
If Gehlot accepts the responsibility to become the Indian National Congress executive president, he might demand the membership of Rajya Sabha. But, if Gehlot insists on remaining in the state politics and continue as the Chief Minister, he would have to expand his Cabinet after dropping a few cabinet and ministers of state. But Gehlot is unlikely to accommodate Pilot back as the deputy chief minister.
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