The Congress reordered its house in Rajasthan by shuffling and expanding the Council of Ministers and enforcing a ‘one person, one post’ principle across its governmental and organisational wings. That this was done in a rather quiet and clean manner is a feat for the party. The new Council has 30 members — 19 cabinet Ministers and 10 Ministers of State besides the Chief Minister; three are women and four are Dalits. This reorganisation was long overdue — the party that swears by its pro-Dalit politics had a Cabinet which did not have a single member from the community for nearly two years. The Congress had won 35 of the 59 SC/ST seats in Rajasthan in 2018 after having lost all but two of them in 2013. The geographical imbalance in the Council too had become unsustainable, with the eastern districts that elected more MLAs of the party severely under-represented. Sachin Pilot, under whose leadership the Congress fought the 2018 Assembly election, had been sidelined after he rebelled against CM Ashok Gehlot’s unilateralism in 2020. Sunday’s reorganisation and expansion take care of these anomalies to a large extent. Mr. Gehlot and Mr. Pilot have thus achieved a new equilibrium, with some nudging by the central leadership. The State is crucial to the national outcome of the 2024 general election — the Congress had lost all 25 Lok Seats in the State in 2019 to the BJP, just a year after it won the 2018 Assembly election.
It is on this count that the Congress should learn lessons from its self-inflicted disaster in Punjab on the eve of the Assembly election and continue to plan ahead in Rajasthan, if it is to have a fighting chance in 2023 and 2024. Mr. Gehlot is an astute manager of interest groups — a fact borne out by his capacity to claim the CM’s post for a third term despite having lost two Assembly elections after two five-year terms in the past. He has also managed ties across party lines. At 70, he has expressed plans to remain active for another 20 years. That may not be a great idea for himself or the party. His reputation and legacy would be enhanced were he to work towards a transition, along with Mr. Pilot, who,despite his rebellion against Mr. Gehlot, has stayed a loyalist in the Congress. At 44, Mr. Pilot has shown promise as a leader who can connect with the rural and the urban; the conservative and the modern. The party’s challenge is in converting the impatience of its young leaders into energy, and combining it with the political shrewdness of its veterans to create a productive compact.