Ashok Gehlot Proves A Worthy Opponent Of Modi-Shah

The game of politics has become very interesting - and sinister - in Rajasthan. At the time of writing, the brother of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has been raided. Doesn't take a genius to link this to the attempt to topple the Congress government in Rajasthan. This is an act of frustration by the BJP which is understandable because since Narendra Modi assumed leadership of the party and the government, this is the first time that his efforts have been met with equal vengeance.

Ashok Gehlot has been an equal match for Modi's type of politics; he has shown remarkable resilience and aggression. He has realised that if one is pitted against Modi and Amit Shah's calibre, playing defensive is suicidal. So he has decided to fight it out with the same vigour, vitality, verve and venom. Unlike Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh and H D Kumaraswamy in Karnataka, Gehlot has not meekly surrendered. He knows his government has a razor-thin majority, yet he is in attack mode.

Much of the power that Modi has acquired is the result of his gladiatorial instinct. For him, every battle is a matter of life and death. He fights as if his whole life hinges on that - like it's his last battle. He never envisages defeat and in the process, he gives his all. For him, politics is not a moral game, it's about full control and power and Shah and he are experts in how to use that power to defeat, deflect and destroy opponents. Since Modi became Prime Minister, Indian politics has taken a decisive turn. He suffers no rivals in the party, and no opponents outside the party, and if there is one, then he has to be vanquished and annihilated beyond recognition.

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Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot (File photo)

Modi has not hidden his intent to make India Congress-Mukt. In Goa and Manipur, he kept the Congress from forming the government despite it having more MLAs than the BJP and being the single-largest party. In Uttarakhand, Arunachal, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, he dislodged duly elected governments. In all these states, the Modus Operandi was the same. First, a few MLAs of the ruling party raise the banner of revolt, these MLAs are moved to a safe destination and then the investigative agencies chip in. Suddenly, the Income Tax Department, Enforcement Directorate, CBI and police become very active. Some old case picks up pace or new cases are thrusted upon the members of the attacked party or on their relatives.

In Uttarakhand, Harish Rawat was subjected to a CBI inquiry, in Karnataka, D K Shivakumar's resort was raided by the Income Tax department, and to counter the state police, services of the CRPF were taken. This game was taken to its logical end with the arrest of D K Shivakumar. In MP, long before the Kamal Nath government was defeated, his nephew, Ratul Puri was raided, interrogated and finally arrested. In each case, a section of the media was used to taint the image of the politician in question - or his family or associates - as corrupt.

The office of the Governor is also used to deny the legitimate claims of rival camp. Think of Maharashtra, where Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as Chief Minister along with Ajit Pawar at 6:30 in the morning to prevent the Shiv Sena, Congress and Sharad Pawar from forming the government. Eventually, Fadnavis had to resign as he did not have the numbers.

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Narendra Modi and Amit Shah (File photo)

Now, this pattern is repeated in Rajasthan. The Congress's 19 MLAs, led by Sachin Pilot, raised the banner of revolt, they were taken to a BJP-ruled state (Haryana) where they were given state protection. The same day, the world woke up to realise that the tax department and Enforcement Directorate had raided the premises of the close friends of Ashok Gehlot in Jaipur. And now, after a week, Gehlot's brother is the target.

I have known Ashok Gehlot as a soft-spoken and mild-mannered politician always on the right side of the Nehru-Gandhi Family. He loved being called a Gandhi loyalist. But this crisis has seen a new Gehlot. He is aggressive, swift, does not mince words and has been a step ahead of the rebels and Modi. It seems he has been keenly observing Modi and his style of functioning.

Ashok Gehlot did not wait for the BJP to strike. In Modi style, he had been watching and listening and when he got taped evidence of the rebels and BJP leaders conspiring, he got FIRs filed against BJP leaders and some rebels. He moved to have his deputy, Sachin Pilot, interrogated. He got an FIR to name a union minister and Modi favourite, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. The Rajasthan police was dispatched to Manesar where rebels were lodged in the safe custody of the BJP government.

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Gehlot also knew that the office of the Governor could be used against him. Before the BJP could move, he, with a list of 102 MLAs including himself (one more than the required to cross the majority mark) visited the Governor and hinted that he is willing prove his majority on the floor of the House. But it was more of a warning to make it clear that he has the confidence and numbers needed.

It is also whispered that Gehlot, in anticipation of the inevitable, had humoured former Chief Minister and BJP leader Vasundhara Raje with the allotment of a government bungalow in Jaipur. Vasundhara has shown no interest in the whole chaos unlike BJP leaders in other states. In the process, Gehlot has also defied Congress leaders. It is well known that Sachin has been in touch with Rahul and Priyanka and they are keen to retain him despite his rebellion. But Gehlot has abused Pilot repeatedly to ensure the younger leader cannot return to Rajasthan in the same party.

With all this, Gehlot has shown that he is more than capable of outwitting those against him. It is to be seen if his strategy works but it has definitely opened a new chapter in opposition's book to counter Modi and Shah. Let's see!

(Ashutosh is a Delhi-based author and journalist.)

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