The Congress high command that took stock of preparations for the Rajasthan Assembly polls later this year, on Thursday also managed to put a lid on the prolonged feud between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy, Sachin Pilot. In order to bridge the trust deficit between the two leaders, the party announced the reformation of the Rajasthan Public Service Commission and stringent punishment for those who are found to be involved in the leak of question papers that are set for recruitment examinations. Along with the issue of alleged corruption by the previous Vasundhara Raje government of the BJP, Mr. Pilot had made the question paper leak and reforms in the public service commission major flashpoints against his own government. Of course, his main grouse, even if unstated, relates to his own role in a Congress government in Rajasthan. The overtures to the Pilot camp — Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has urged his colleagues to make corruption under the BJP a major poll plank, for instance — have been tempered with praise for the Gehlot government’s welfare schemes as well as a stern warning that any partyman taking internal matters outside the party forum would face action. The central leadership has called for a door-to-door campaign on governance successes.
In a State that is known to vote out incumbent governments, Mr. Gehlot is making a bold bid for his re-election by projecting his government as one that is working to provide relief from inflation and other forms of distress. The resultant slew of schemes includes cooking gas cylinders at a subsidised cost of ₹500 and health insurance for every family up to ₹25 lakh. Mr. Gehlot has been touring the State extensively to publicise these schemes, but the intra-party battle including a failed rebellion by Mr. Pilot had become a drag on all these efforts. There were also reports that Mr. Pilot might be considering a future outside the Congress ahead of the Assembly elections. So, when Mr. Pilot asserts that the Congress will do better this time when compared to 2018, when he was State chief, the party can heave a sigh of relief — at least for the moment. Internal unity is a necessary condition for a good campaign, but this is not sufficient. If it is hoping to win a second consecutive term, the Congress must manage candidate selection well, respond effectively to the BJP’s strategy which remains unclear now, and communicate well with voters.