His resignation underscores the seriousness and continuing strength and potential of the unresolved powerplay between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot in the state where Assembly elections are due in a year.
It is still early days for Mallikarjun Kharge as Congress president, and Maken’s move to push the envelope will put him in a quandary. That is because the issue is not so much Maken resigning, as it is the issue that Maken has raised.
Obviously Maken is upset. But the story goes deeper than that.
He is upset that even after nearly two months, the party has not taken any action against the three close associates of Chief Minister Gehlot who were given show-cause notices for holding a parallel Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting in Jaipur on September 25.
But that is the tip of the iceberg. The real issue is whether the Congress high command wants to enforce a change of guard in the state.
But there is a lack of clarity on what the leadership of the party wants to do, and when.
On September 29 — soon after Gehlot met Sonia Gandhi and apologised to her — the AICC general secretary in charge of organisation K C Venugopal had declared that a decision on Rajasthan would be taken in a day or two.
What would that decision be? Gehlot’s rival Sachin Pilot remains hopeful that a change of guard would take place sooner than later. His camp has been claiming that Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have promised to make him Chief Minister a year before the elections.
However, replacing Gehlot is easier said than done.
The Congress leadership, especially new president Kharge, would be hard pressed to act against the Chief Minister — given the support of the majority of MLAs that Gehlot enjoys.
That the party has so far not taken any disciplinary action against Rajasthan Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal, Party Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi, and Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) chairman Dharmendra Rathore despite the disciplinary committee serving them show-cause notices, is a signal.
It is these fault lines that the resignation of Maken has brought to the fore.
It is also the first big challenge that Kharge is facing. The timing is also significant — it has come just a fortnight before Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra enters Rajasthan. The party leadership would not like to force any disruption at this stage which would derail the yatra in the state.
The big question is, what will happen after the yatra completes its Rajasthan leg.