Sachin Pilot led a rebellion in the Rajasthan unit of the Congress in 2020, trying to get Ashok Gehlot ousted as chief minister. In 2022, it seemed to be the turn of the Gehlot faction to flex its muscles before the party’s central leadership.
Also during the year, communal violence erupted sporadically in the state – in isolated incidents, Hindus and Muslim clashed during festival times, and a tailor was killed on camera for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammed.
Thirty-five people died in a cooking gas cylinder blast in Jodhpur district. In Kota, three students committed suicide within a span of a few hours, drawing attention to the stress young people face while preparing for competitive exams.
Altogether, about 15 students committed suicide over the past year at the coaching hub for entrance exams like that for the IAS and the IITs.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra was announced in May by the then Congress president Sonia Gandhi after brainstorming sessions at the party’s ‘Chintan Shivir’ in Udaipur.
But the Congress-ruled state itself appeared to be a bad example of party unity.
Trouble erupted after Gehlot was mentioned as the Gandhis-backed nominee for the party’s presidential elections. Over 90 party MLAs, the Gehlot camp claims, boycotted a Congress Legislature Party meeting, where they were expected to pass a one-line resolution giving the top leadership the right to pick the next chief minister.
Instead, the CM loyalists held a separate meeting — a show of strength meant to warn the high command that replacing Gehlot with the former deputy chief minister wasn’t on.
The party sent notices for “indiscipline” to three state leaders – minister Shanti Dhariwal, Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi and Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation chairman Dharmendra Rathore.
But they are yet face any disciplinary action, despite Pilot and the Ajay Maken, the now replaced Rajasthan in-charge at the AICC, flagging the “delay”.
And just days before the Rahul Gandhi-led yatra entered the state, the factional fight flared up again when Gehlot called the younger leader a ‘gaddar’, or traitor, who cannot be made the CM. But the party papered over the crisis.
Earlier, the Congress which has 108 seats in the 200-member assembly, fought off a challenge posed by a BJP-backed independent candidate, media baron Subhash Chandra, in the Rajya Sabha election.
The Congress won the expected three out of four seats from the state. It also retained the Sardarshahar assembly seat in a bypoll.
An attack on a tailor in Udaipur for allegedly disrespecting Prophet Mohammed sent shockwaves across the country. Two men barged into his shop in a busy market, struck him in the neck with a cleaver, filmed the attack and then uploaded the chilling video online.
The alleged attackers were nabbed within hours. In its charge sheet, the National Investigation Agency also named others and claimed that Pakistani nationals too were involved in the crime, which followed remarks on Islam by BJP leader Nupur Sharma.
There were other communal incidents during the year.
Stone-pelting during a procession in Karauli to mark Nav Samvatsar in April forced the authorities to clamp a curfew. On Eid next month, Hindus and Muslims clashed in Gehlot’s hometown Jodhpur.
A temple was demolished in a drive to clear encroachments in Alwar’s BJP-run Rajgarh municipality. As the two main parties blamed each other for this, the state BJP projected it as another example of Gehlot’s “anti-Hindu” government.
The opposition BJP repeatedly attacked the state government over law and order, particularly in cases of crime against women and Dalits. The BJP announced a ‘Jan Aakrosh Yatra’ across all assembly constituencies, highlighting this and other government “failures”.
The gunning down of alleged gangster Raju Theth outside his home in Sikar was also caught on video. The shootout claimed an unintended victim: a man who had come to meet his daughter at a nearby hostel also died.
Although not on the scale of the Congress infighting, the BJP has its own concerns in the state.
Former chief minister Vasundhara Raje held a “Dev Darshan Yatra” in Bundi and Jhalawar districts to mark her birthday, attended at places by several party MLAs. Many saw this as her own show of strength, a reminder to the party bosses that she remains in the race for the CM’s spot in 2023.
Gehlot has been showcasing his own, hopefully election-winning, initiatives.
His government has revived the Old Pension Scheme for government employees, and launched the Chiranjeevi Health Insurance Scheme and the Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme.
Gehlot introduced the state-wide Rajiv Gandhi Rural Olympic Games, also seen as a month-long opportunity to connect with people at the panchayat-level. An urban version of it will be held next year.