Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has emerged as a troubleshooter for the party. In many cases, the troubles have been linked to the top Congress leader and his brother Rahul Gandhi. The latest such case seems to be the tussle of the Congress in Rajasthan between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and party leader Sachin Pilot.
Priyanka Gandhi held a meeting with Ashok Gehlot at Rahul Gandhi’s residence in Delhi on Wednesday. Congress General Secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal and party’s Rajasthan in-charge Ajay Maken were present in the meeting. Rahul Gandhi did not attend the meeting despite being at his residence. The leaders clearly discussed the issues of cabinet reshuffle in Rajasthan.
When Gehlot and Pilot reached an agreement last year, one of the key understandings was to give more representation to Pilot supporters in the government. The ceasefire was called after Priyanka Gandhi stepped in and spoke to Sachin Pilot, who had piloted around 25 MLAs from Rajasthan to Gurugram, sounding a rebellion against Ashok Gehlot.
Since then, Priyanka Gandhi has played the role of a troubleshooter in Chhattisgarh and more prominently in Punjab. In both Chhattisgarh and Punjab, the rebel leaders were considered Rahul Gandhi’s ‘man’. In fact, the picture of the rebellion painted for the Congress is a broad canvas to see.
The years 2017 and 2018 were crucial for the Congress after its lowest performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. By the end of 2018, the Congress found itself in power in the Hindi-speaking states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and in the economic powerhouse Punjab.
In Punjab, the Congress leadership (read Rahul Gandhi) appeared to favor Navjot Singh Sidhu as the future leader in the state. Navjot Sidhu always proved to be a rebel, making life difficult for Captain Amarinder Singh, the former Chief Minister of Punjab. Captain Amarinder Singh finally resigned as the CM of Punjab in September. Sidhu won.
Rahul Gandhi in turn surprised everyone by naming Charanjit Singh Channi, giving Punjab its first chief minister from the Dalit community. The decision was taken even after Amarinder Singh’s sudden allegation of questioning Navjot Sidhu’s patriotic commitment.
Priyanka Gandhi played the role of the main mediator in the whole matter. On one occasion Navjot Sidhu left Punjab to meet Rahul Gandhi in Delhi. On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi announced to the media that he has no plans to meet Sidhu. But the cricketer-turned-politician was adamant on this.
Priyanka Gandhi met him and made sure that Rahul Gandhi meets Navjot Sidhu. She stopped between the residences of Rahul Gandhi and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, as party stalwart Amarinder Singh, a friend of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul and Priyanka’s late father Amarinder Singh, was sidelined.
Two months later, Navjot Sidhu has won his battle against not only Captain Amarinder but Channi as well. The script of Chhattisgarh followed a similar template.
Here, state minister TS Singh Deo insisted on changing the chief minister, citing the promise made by Rahul Gandhi. Reports said that Rahul Gandhi was ready to honor his commitment, but Priyanka Gandhi stopped it anticipating that such a move would hurt the party. She was part of several meetings within the Congress on the issue.
In Madhya Pradesh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is currently the Union Minister, was part of Team Rahul. He was seen as the future leader in the state. The Congress government was headed by veteran Kamal Nath. Scindia had his eye on that role. He sought the intervention of Rahul Gandhi to address it. It did not happen. He rebelled and left the BJP in 2020, leading to the fall of the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh.
The Scindia episode seems to have proved to be a wake-up call for the Congress. Priyanka Gandhi, though only in charge of Uttar Pradesh, was assigned by Rahul Gandhi along with Jyotiraditya Scindia as Congress President ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, has ensured that state governments remain unaffected despite revolts by powerful leaders .
In Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot was considered a member of Congress’s team Rahul for a long time. He was made the President of Rajasthan Congress with the mandate of Rahul Gandhi to form the party after the party’s defeat in the 2012 assembly elections.
He ensured victory in the elections and since then nurtured the ambition of becoming the Chief Minister. The chief minister’s post went to veteran Ashok Gehlot along with Sachin Pilot. In mid-2020, his patience faltered and he revolted along with his supporters. He was pacified after the intervention of Priyanka Gandhi, who asked Ashok Gehlot to be more suited to Sachin Pilot’s ambition for a future leadership role.