The Congress government in Rajasthan returned to its full strength of 30 on Sunday with a carefully orchestrated reshuffle that marked the return of two sacked ministers and seemed to have enough in terms of representation for former deputy CM Sachin Pilot to bury the hatchet with CM Ashok Gehlot after 16 months of wrangling.
“The cabinet changes have guaranteed that Rajasthan’s Congress government will get repeated in 2023. BJP was predicting our government’s fall after the cabinet reshuffle, but the rejig has worked to strengthen us 25 times more,” Pilot said following the swearing-in of 15 ministers, 12 of them new faces.
While there was speculation about whether Pilot had gained anything for his troubles, he did appear to claw his way back into Congress’s circle of prominence, reflected in the party leadership giving in to his demand for “respectable representation to those who toiled to form the government in 2018”.
Pilot said the reshuffle was based on feedback from the Congress ranks in the state. He thanked CM Gehlot, AICC’s Rajasthan minder Ajay Maken and PCC chief Govind Singh Dotasra along with the central leadership for a “comprehensive, accurate and well-thought-out reshuffle” with increased dalit and Scheduled Tribe representation.
On his own role in the party, Pilot said, “I am satisfied-...Whatever responsibility Congress gave me in the past, I fulfilled it with total commitment. I shall do the same in future - whenever a role is assigned to me.” The former deputy CM claimed there were no “camps: in the state Congress. “We contested the 2018 election collectively under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi ji, Rahul Gandhi ji and Priyanka Gandhi ji. The 2023 election, too, would be fought the same way.” The 15 ministers to whom governor Kalraj Mishra administered the oath of office include Vishvendra Singh and Ramesh Meena, both of whom had been fired last year for siding with Pilot in his revolt against Gehlot. Four ministers of state were elevated to cabinet rank. Zahida Khan, the lone Muslim MLA among the new recruits, took oath in English, while the rest chose Hindi.