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The long-awaited Rajasthan cabinet reshuffle is finally on, but not without the messaging.

First, following the Punjab model, the central leadership has made it clear that they will call the shots. The list of ministers and portfolios has largely been vetted by the top brass and even Ashok Gehlot has been prevailed upon to agree. The first sign of this is the fact that the five independents who are close to Gehlot have not been given any berth and only one BSP leader has been given ministership.

Of the 11 from Congress who are taking oath, five belong to the Sachin Pilot camp. Of these, three are cabinet ranks and two are minister of state. The three MoS who have also been elevated to cabinet rank are scheduled castes along with another. Sources say this was one of the suggestions from Pilot that SCs and Dalits have more say in the reshuffle. Many advisors and parliamentary secretaries have been appointed to placate those who may have lost out.

Behind the reshuffle is a larger political strategy of the Gandhis. The central leadership did not want a repeat of what happened in Punjab where Captain Amarinder Singh sprang a surprise. In Rajasthan, the Gandhis are trying to ensure a fine balancing act, a top Congress source said. Gehlot has been very cooperative so far as choosing and giving a shape to the cabinet is concerned. However, by placating Pilot and listening to many of his suggestions, Gandhi also sent out a message to the MLAs in Rajasthan and the chief minister that while there will be no change of guard at the top level, Pilot will continue to remain integral to Rajasthan’s politics.

For now, it’s clear that Pilot has had his way and his people have been accommodated but Gandhi also wants Pilot to ensure that there is no infighting in Rajasthan: Gehlot is respected as a chief minister and Pilot comes and assumes a larger national role.

However, the footprint behind the decision in Punjab and now in Rajasthan is very clear: Though the Gandhis are yet to show that they can win elections, they do want to send out a message to the organisation and party that they are the boss and the writ of the central leadership runs large so far as the affairs in states are concerned.

A source close to Pilot said the reshuffle was just baby steps towards the larger demand that the leader should take the place of Gehlot at some point of time. While that decision may not be an easy one as Gehlot still has the largest number of MLAs by his side, in politics, one never knows.

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