The shift of security officer in Punjab, with the Congress substituting Captain Amarinder Singh with Charanjit Singh Channi as chief minister, might have repercussions in Rajasthan, where another Congress administration has been facing factional conflict.
Chief minister Ashok Gehlot and previous deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot have remained at odds for a year. A settlement strategy devised by the party's central leadership has failed to bring forth a thaw in ties, with many legislators frustrated that a planned cabinet replacement is taking longer than expected.
For the time being, the Punjab development has pleased the Pilot camp. On the condition of anonymity, a Congress lawmaker close to Pilot stated, "We anticipate positive news shortly." The pilot has spoken with key Congress officials, including Rahul Gandhi, this week and is optimistic that the party would make an "assertive" stance in the coming weeks, according to him.
However, political observers believe the scenario in Rajasthan differs from that in Punjab since Gehlot retains leadership of the party, contrasting Amarinder Singh, who surrendered control of the Punjab Congress when Navjot Singh Sidhu was chosen, president. Unlike Punjab, whose assembly elections are scheduled for March 2022, Rajasthan's state elections are scheduled for December 2023, which is more than two years away.
According to political analyst Manish Godha, “Gehlot is also quite close to the Gandhi family,” implying that a replay of Punjab in Rajasthan is improbable. He did warn, though, that "time is running out" and that the "party leadership will have to concentrate on appeasing the dissidents."
Following Punjab, Rahul Gandhi is anticipated to concentrate on Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where chief minister Bhupesh Baghel may be succeeded by health minister T S Singhdeo, according to a second senior Congress politician. Pilot visited Rahul on Friday evening and had a long conversation with him, he claimed, prompting speculation of a cabinet change and political appointments.
HT's SMS messages and phone calls went unanswered by Pilot.
“What the party leadership has achieved in Punjab has bolstered our faith that improvements would come here as well,” said a third member close to Pilot.
“The reforms are primarily for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, where the Congress is targeting a three-figure vote,” the second politician mentioned above explained.
Immediately after the Punjab development on Saturday, Gehlot's officer on special duty (OSD) Lokesh Sharma commented on Twitter that if a powerful person is coerced and an inconsequential person is given an ego massage, no one can prevent the crop from being devoured by the fence itself.
The remark was interpreted as a criticism of the Congress high command's handling of the Punjab issue, causing Sharma to quit on Sunday. He asserted, however, that the message was not meant at the party's top leadership.
On Sunday morning, Gehlot supported the party's top leadership, saying that individuals in the party who are angry about losing control should heed to their consciences.
“I believe that the Congress president chooses the chief minister at the risk of enraging several lawmakers who are competing for the job. However, when the same chief minister is changed, he or she is displeased and feels the decision was erroneous. In such circumstances, one should listen to one's voice,” Gehlot said on Twitter.