With Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje embroiled in the Lalit Modi controversy, the decimated Opposition Congress in the state has got a shot in the arm, reviving every party worker’s hope and state unit chief Sachin Pilot’s chances in the upcoming polls for 129 local bodies.
Ever since the Congress suffered a wipe-out in the assembly elections, it had failed to bring up a sustainable campaign against the Raje government. The allegations against External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Raje and her son Dushyant in connection with Lalit Modi have infused a fresh lease of life in the party.
The Opposition Congress led campaigns on Raje’s moves to amend labour laws, revamp the free medicine scheme, her opposition to the Barmer refinery and Jaipur metro apart from the issue of price rise but all were taken as political gimmick. The Lalit Modi storm has, however, blown away the dark clouds over Congress’ possibility in the imminent local body polls. The panchayat polls and the assembly bypolls have show an encouraging trend for the party as it has covered lost ground and brought down the difference in vote share from 26 percent in the December assembly polls to 2 percent in the recent panchayat elections.
Even as the BJP high command came out in support of Raje and her son Dushyant Singh days after the controversy first emerged, the image of the BJP suffered a debilitating blow, especially with legislators hedging their bets on Raje. Sources close to Raje said that in this time of crisis she has marked out her friends and foes, a matter of concern for the legislators who although in closed circles made unfavourable comments on Raje’s possible exit.
While the uncertainty within the BJP ranks and the tarnished public image might cost the ruling party dearly in the local body polls slated for August, the Congress front even while on a better footing has started to show chinks. Even as the Congress is going full throttle to corner the beleaguered BJP, the party continues to dither due to a nagging internal conflict. While former CM Ashok Gehlot, whose son Vaibhav is now caught in counter-allegations by BJP, has decided to step down the attacks, Pilot has made the Lalit Modi controversy a rallying point in the upcoming polls.
The Raje-Modi controversy remained central to the speeches of both Pilot and state-in-charge Gurudas Kamat in a massive party workers’ rally in Jhunjhunu and Jaipur rural on Friday. Gehlot, however, did not attend the events.
Party insiders said that even while the Congress unanimously passed a resolution to demand Raje’s resignation in a meeting in Udaipur last week, Gehlot had the feeblest voice in this. Soon after Raje came to power in her second stint, a CBI inquiry was sought into an alleged ambulance scam involving Gehlot among other senior Congress leaders including Pilot. On Friday while defending Dushyant Singh, the state unit of BJP had levelled charges of dubious financial dealings by Vaibhav and on Monday a formal complaint was lodged with the Enforcement Directorate in the state capital.
As Gehlot might like to dodge Raje’s ire, the equations work favourably for Pilot, who since his appointment as state unit chief has increasingly displaced Gehlot in the party in Rajasthan.
Over the past week, the Congress party led by Pilot in an aggressive campaign against the ruling party, held demonstrations in every district of the state and gheraod the CM’s residence demanding Raje’s resignation and a fair probe into the allegations made against her. “We must remember the allegations have been made not by the Congress party but by Lalit Modi himself and reports have come out in the media. Congress will keep up a sustained agitation. BJP after days of silence, has given support to Sushma Swaraj and Raje. It is an afterthought and it is not enough,” maintained Pilot. “Ever since the Raje government came to power, it has made only anti-people decisions and their mask of providing a corruption-free government has finally fallen off.”