Even in the time of coronavirus pandemic, the Congress leaders have managed to find time to indulge in a game they are best at: Infighting. After Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, it is now the turn of Rajasthan to witness an all-out war between the rival camps. The long-standing rivalry between the warring factions, headed by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, has reached a boiling point, leading to a showdown. The question is whether the desert storm triggered by Pilot’s rebellion will lead to the collapse of the Congress government, reminiscent of the meltdown witnessed in Madhya Pradesh in March. Though the numbers in the Assembly still favour Gehlot, the old horse who enjoys the confidence of the high-command, the internal revolt has dealt a big blow to the party’s image and threatens to derail the governance in the midst of a public health crisis. While there is still no indication of Pilot steering his camp towards the BJP, the twists and turns in the Rajasthan potboiler are turning murkier by the day. The grand old party has been consistently refusing to learn from past mistakes. There is a sense of déjà vu as one State unit after the other is caught in fatal factionalism while the central leadership looks helpless. Resort politics is back in the desert State as MLAs supporting the Chief Minister were shifted to a hotel soon after a meeting of the legislature party to prevent poaching by the rival camp.
In the 200-member House, the Congress had a strength of 107 MLAs and the support of independents, before the rebellion broke out. The Pilot camp now claims the support of 30 party MLAs. At the heart of the tussle is the ego clash between Gehlot and Pilot. The deep distrust between them has manifested multiple times in the last one-and-a-half years. Even if the internal crisis finally blows over and the party leadership manages to placate the rebel camp and prevent the fall of the government, the crisis has already exposed the vulnerabilities of the Congress. It is not surprising that the party’s morale sank to an abysmal low following a humiliating defeat in the 2019 general elections. It has been more than a year since then and yet there are no new ideas for the future. The latest fiasco points to a deep crisis within the party, which is unable to look beyond the Nehru-Gandhi family for leadership. The message is loud and clear that it cannot afford to conduct the party affairs in its old nonchalant ways but needs to reinvent itself. Infighting has been the bane of the party, whether it is in power or not.
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