Sachin Pilot, CP Joshi or Govind Singh Dotasra — the race in the Congress on who will be the next chief minister of Rajasthan is boiling down to these three names as Ashok Gehlot has made it clear that he will contest for Congress president and step down as the Rajasthan chief minister if he wins.
The race for the next CM of Rajasthan could in fact become a more fascinating contest than that of Congress president.
Dotasra, the state Congress chief, has been right alongside Gehlot during his Delhi visit after he had replaced Pilot as the PCC chief in 2020. Gehlot is also said to be in the favour of Rajasthan Assembly Speaker CP Joshi to replace him, which would be a sweet gift for Joshi who had missed out to Gehlot in 2008 on becoming the Rajasthan CM after his heart-breaking loss by just one vote in those assembly elections. Pilot, however, is fancying his chances, given the ‘promise’ made to him by the Gandhis to make him the chief ministerial face ahead of the assembly elections in Rajasthan next year.
A senior Rajasthan minister said Gehlot’s focus is on ‘continuity’ in the government and no ‘disruption’ in the momentum ahead of the state elections that are just 14 months away. He has also made it clear that the wishes and sentiments of the MLAs be kept in mind while the high command chooses the next chief minister — and most MLAs are expected to either support Joshi or Dotasra though Pilot has begun his efforts to bring the MLAs to his side as well. Dotasra, however, has denied that he is among the contenders but added that the MLAs’ advice will matter.
Joshi, the MLA from Nathdwara who was elected as the Rajasthan Speaker in 2019, seems a frontrunner from the Gehlot camp, given his experience both as a minister at the Centre as well of party affairs since he has been the former PCC chief of Rajasthan. He has a good equation with Gehlot. The CM’s recommendation may weigh heavily, given that most MLAs back him. In fact, Gehlot had called for a meeting of all MLAs, except Pilot, earlier this week before coming to Delhi and told them to accompany him in the national capital when he files a nomination form as a big show of strength.
Pilot, however, is expected to lean on Rahul Gandhi to reward his “patience” and announce him as the next chief minister who will lead the party into the next elections in Rajasthan. Pilot will make a case that he also has experience as a Union minister, has led the party in the state till 2020 and as a youth leader with good traction across the state, he can reverse the trend of the cyclic change of governments in Rajasthan and make the Congress return to power a consecutive time. The Congress had also lost all Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan in 2019, a year after the party won the state election and Gehlot became chief minister. Pilot’s case has been that even Gehlot’s son could not win.
There is, meanwhile, also speculation that the decision on the next Rajasthan chief minister could be taken after the Gujarat elections are over in December and Gehlot could continue till then, presenting the state budget before he quits.