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Fallout of Ashok Gehlot vs Sachin Pilot is push for Priyanka Gandhi in Rajya Sabha

JAIPUR: The continued Ashok Gehlot-Sachin Pilot tussle in Rajasthan has had an unlikely fallout: a clamour to nominate Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to the Rajya Sabha from the state.

The buzz in the Congress corridors in New Delhi and Jaipur suggests that it is Gehlot who is strongly pushing for it. It is said he is trying to convince the Gandhi family to agree to fielding Priyanka, the same way former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was last year.

The Rajasthan CM’s eagerness to bring Priyanka to Parliament’s Upper House is linked to what is considered in Congress circles a certainty: the return of Rahul Gandhi as the party president soon.

It is well known that when the Congress was gearing up to form the government in the state in December 2018 following the party’s win in the Assembly elections, Rahul was keen to make Pilot the Chief Minister. But Gehlot, who had already served as the CM twice before and is an old warhorse from the state, was picked on the suggestion of Sonia Gandhi with Priyanka’s tacit support.

The Gehlot camp said the CM has served three generations of the Gandhi family, beginning with Indira Gandhi when he was a minister at the Centre. His supporters said Gehlot’s steadfastness and party loyalty, coupled with the fact that Pilot has time on his side, ultimately made the party high command opt for Gehlot as the CM. But the likely return of Rahul at the party helm is not good news for the Gehlot camp. Insiders believe that the CM’s push for Priyanka for the Rajya Sabha is an attempt to offset the gains the Pilot camp will make if Rahul is back as the party chief.

A section of the Congress feels that despite the recent successes in the panchayat elections, the ongoing Gehlot-Pilot fight has the potential to neutralize the goodwill for the party. They said if Priyanka is elected from Rajasthan, it would help cement the party even as it would provide a bulwark for Gehlot.

It is also felt that her entry into Parliament will help amplify the Congress’ voice in the House. The induction would also raise her profile nationally. This would prove to be an asset, especially with several state elections lined up in the near future.

Officially, the party is mum on her nomination. ‘‘I don’t have any definite knowledge about this and ultimately the decision will be that of Priyanka Gandhiji. But if she chooses to be a Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan it will be very fortunate for all of us and will greatly strengthen the Congress in the state,’’ said state Information and Public Relations Minister Raghu Sharma. The tussle between the CM and his deputy, quite often played out in full public glare, is the worst kept secret in the state. Recently, Pilot used the infant deaths in a Kota government hospital to embarrass Gehlot.

While the CM had defended his government’s response to the crisis, Pilot told reporters after visiting the hospital that the incident could have been handled in a more sensitive manner.