Amid dispute over Rajasthan Cabinet reshuffle, Congress leader DK Shivakumar meets CM Gehlot


Express News Service

JAIPUR: Ahead of a major reshuffle of the Rajasthan Cabinet, politics in the state Congress is intensifying sharply. After Haryana Congress President Kumari Selja met CM Ashok Gehlot over the weekend, Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar came to Jaipur to meet the Rajasthan CM on Tuesday.

According to highly placed sources, Gehlot is still not in a mood to accommodate the demands of the Sachin Pilot camp at the cost of his 102 loyalist MLAs – and fresh uncertainty looms over the reshuffle which was earlier expected by August 5 but is now likely to be postponed by about a week.

Kumari Selja’s brief trip to Jaipur to meet Gehlot had fuelled speculation about problems regarding the upcoming reshuffle in the Gehlot Cabinet. Amid demands by Sachin Pilot supporters that they should get a bigger share of power in the Congress-ruled state, it was speculated that Selja, a close aide of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, had travelled to Jaipur to convey a message from the party’s central leadership to Gehlot.

While efforts are being made to address the ongoing dispute between Gehlot and Pilot, it is simply not getting resolved. With Karnataka Congress chief Shivakumar arriving in Jaipur on Tuesday, the buzz about difficulties in resolving this dispute has got stronger.

Sources in the Rajasthan Congress say the major problem is that Gehlot is not ready to reconstitute the Cabinet and only wants to expand it. Instead of dropping any of his existing ministers, Gehlot only wants to add some new ones, of which a few can be from the Pilot camp. Resolving this issue is said to be the main agenda in Shivakumar’s meeting with Gehlot. Not only the Pilot camp but even the High Command is said to be keen to drop non-performing ministers.

However, officialy Shivakumar denied that there is any political intent behind his Jaipur trip. Talking to the media, he said, “I have come on a personal visit and there is no message from anyone and no agenda. Neither related with Karnataka, Rajasthan or Centre.”

Congress insiders say though Gehlot is agreeable to taking three ministers from the Pilot camp, there is a big dispute over who exactly those three should be. Recently, the AICC General Secretary KC Venugopal and state in-charge Ajay Maken had come to resolve this dispute but they could not succeed in persuading Gehlot to reshuffle his cabinet. It is being widely speculated that Shivakumar in his discussions with the Chief Minister has tried to come up with a new formula to break the standoff between the Congress High Command and Gehlot over the Cabinet reshuffle.

Meanwhile, a statement by UDH minister and close confidant of Gehlot, Shanti Dhariwal, has further heated up politics in the state. When the media asked him about the Cabinet reshuffle-expansion, Dhariwal, considered the number two minister in the Gehlot cabinet, stated, “Who is making changes in Rajasthan. The only thing that counts here is the view of Ashok Gehlot.” This is seen as an indication that Gehlot loyalists are strongly resisting a wide-ranging reshuffle and want only an expansion of the Cabinet.

Shivakumar left Jaipur for Delhi on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, he is likely to meet top Congress leaders in Delhi and apprise them about his meeting with Gehlot. With several rounds of discussions continuing, the reorganisation of the Gehlot Cabinet is likely to take a little longer.

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