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Rajasthan 2021: Congress Factions Bury Differences, Royals Reach Agreement

The Congress appeared to get its act right in Rajasthan this year, after a tumultuous 2020 when Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and MLAs loyal to him rebelled against the leadership of CM Ashok Gehlot.


The Congress appeared to get its act right in Rajasthan this year, after a tumultuous 2020 when Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and MLAs loyal to him rebelled against the leadership of CM Ashok Gehlot.

In late 2021, the CM carried out a crucial part of the truce formula worked out by the central leadership -– a cabinet expansion and shuffle that seemed to accommodate the two factions in the state’s ruling Congress.

A property dispute over Jai Mahal Palace and Rambagh Palace -- both hotels now --- that had simmered for years was also sorted out.

Rambagh Palace also happened to be the venue of a high profile wedding of Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel’s son Prajay Patel. The who’s who of politics, industry and filmdom landed at Jaipur airport on chartered planes.

Another historical venue in Sawai Madhopur hosted the wedding of actors Katrina Kaif and Vicky Kaushal.

Gehlot dropped three ministers and added 12 new ones in the long-awaited cabinet shuffle which happened just when the Pilot camp had begun showing signs of restlessness again. At least five of the new ministers were seen to be from the Pilot camp. Dalit representation in the ministry too was strengthened.

In addition, three Congress MLAs and three independents, all considered close to Gehlot, were made advisers to the CM amid some questions over the legality of the move.

One of the six MLAs who crossed over from the Bahaujan Samaj Party to the Congress earlier, and helped Gehlot with the numbers to survive the Pilot rebellion, too was rewarded with a berth in the ministry.

Days after his appointment, a video clip showed Rajendra Singh Gudha purportedly boasting about his “game” of switching sides. Another showed him with his foot in the mouth, comparing the smoothness of roads with the cheeks of actors Hema Malini and Katrina Kaif.

The Congress did well in the assembly polls held over the year for five seats, retaining three and wresting another from the opposition BJP. In eight of the 12 districts where panchayat polls took place, the ruling party won control over the zila parishad boards.

With two years still to go before the next assembly elections, the Congress also put up a show of strength at a nation-level rally in Jaipur where Rahul Gandhi slammed `Hindutvadis’ and praised ‘Hindus’. Party president Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were among the prominent party leaders who showed up.

Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi got delayed, and turned back from the airport.

While the Congress groups appeared to patch up, there were concerns in the BJP over factionalism in the state. On a visit to the Rajasthan, BJP president J P Nadda even asked party leaders to do some self-introspection about their contribution to the organisation.

Former chief minister Vasundhara Raje undertook two brief yatras -- one in Bharatpur in March, and the other in six districts of the Mewar region in November. Though they were supposed to be personal visits to holy places, some saw an attempt there to demonstrate her influence in the state.

Her supporters want her to be the next CM face of the BJP and were upset when she was missing from the posters for a party event. Raje commented that she would rather be in the hearts of people than on posters.

As the coronavirus crisis eased in the second part of the year, the state government grappled with coal shortages in August-September that threatened power production.

CM Gehlot also missed no opportunity to target the Centre over high fuel prices.

But when the Centre announced a Diwali-eve reduction in excise duty, Rajasthan was among the last of the states to follow up with a cut in VAT. That reduced petrol and diesel prices by Rs 4 and Rs 5, respectively, but saddled the state with a Rs 3,500-crore annual revenue loss.

Athletes from Rajasthan shone at the Tokyo Paralympics. Shooter Avani Lekhara, badminton player Krishna Nagar and javelin throwers Devendra Jhajharia and Sundar Singh Gurjar won medals.

As the BJP targeted the state government over law and order, POCSO courts dealing with sex crimes against minors awarded death sentences to two rape accused in Ajmer and Nagaur.

A similar court in Jaipur sentenced a man to 20 years in jail for raping a nine-year-old girl, imposing the punishment within nine days of the crime.

An FIR lodged during the 2020 political crisis led to the questioning of Lokesh Sharma, Officer on Special Duty to the CM, by the Delhi Police crime branch. It was based on Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat’s complaint over alleged phone tapping.

The Gehlot government changed the school uniform decided by the BJP government in 2017. Some in the Congress had felt back then that the uniform, with its shades of brown, resembled what the RSS cadre wore. In 2022, government school students will switch to blue and grey. 

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