Echoes of Gehlot-Pilot feud in Rajasthan Youth Congress row

The controversy began on September 4 when Rajasthan Youth Congress (RYC) official Harpalsinh Chudasma announced appointments for senior vice president, state vice president and general secretary of the team. Among those appointed as senior vice president were former health minister Raghu Sharma’s son, Sagar, and minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas’ nephew, Dushyant Raj Singh.

Raghu Sharma, currently in charge of congressional affairs in Gujarat, and Minister of Food and Civil Supply Khachariyawas are close to Gehlot. Khachariyawas was earlier in the pilot camp but switched sides during the 2020 political crisis when the then CM MP tried to supplant Gehlot and raised the banner of rebellion. Currently, he is one of CM’s g supporters.

The nominations did not go down well with Rajasthan Youth Council Chairman Sitaram Lamba, who is a former Secretary General of the Indian Youth Congress (IYC). Questioning the nominations, Lamba tweeted the following day: “Is there any internal democracy left in the Youth Congress? Those who are not even members of the IYC, they were appointed senior vice president without organizational elections. He then wrote a letter to the National President of the IYC Srinivas BV on the matter.

Lamba spoke to The Indian Express from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu, where he was overseeing arrangements for the party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra which began on Wednesday. “Youth Congress nominations have a certain process and if that’s ignored and circumvented, it’s not good for workers,” he said. “Appointments are either made through elections or after sustained work within the organization, a person being a public representative or a contribution from any young person in social work. Proper process has not been followed in recent promotions and appointments.

Lamba’s objections prompted an angry reaction from Dushyant Raj Singh who said, “I have been a member of the Youth Congress for five years and for almost two years I have been the General Secretary and District Officer of Alwar. I worked hard for the Rajasthan Youth Congress and was involved in street protests and dharnas. Now I got promoted for all the work I did. This is an attempt to get cheap publicity from people who have no connection to the struggle or the movements and are now questioning the nominations.

Singh also reminded Lamba that he was the chairman of the Youth Council due to his experience in the Youth Congress.

The Pilot’s Rebellion and its aftermath

This is not the first time that the youth wing of Congress has been engulfed in factionalism. In July 2020, following the Pilot rebellion, the party removed its loyalist Mukesh Bhakar, an MP, as RYC chairman three months after his appointment. Pilot also lost the deputy CM and had to resign as state congressman.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot with former Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot in Jaipur. (PTI, file)

MP Ganesh Ghogra succeeded Bhakar, who continued to publicly recall that he was an elected and sacked president at the start of his term and that no election was held to choose his successor.

Although appointments have been made to the RYC from time to time since Bhakar was removed from office, elections have not been held. Ghogra, who still leads the party’s fledgling state wing, remains a Gehlot loyalist but took over government in May when he resigned as MP for Dungarpur a day after being named in an FIR for allegedly locking up a Subdivision Magistrate (SDM) and other government officials.

In his resignation letter, Ghogra alleged that despite being an elected representative of the ruling party and leader of the RYC, he was neglected and his voice suppressed by local government officials. But the party leadership did not accept his resignation and he remains at the head of the RYC. Even though the recent nominations have sparked controversy, Ghogra took to Twitter to congratulate the new appointees.