The power tussle between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his bete noire Sachin Pilot that seemed to have thawed briefly during the Bharat Jodo Yatra has resumed within days of the march crossing the state with the two leaders sparring again.
One of the stated aims of the Kanyakumari-to-Kashmir yatra was to unify party cadres and while it may have done so in some states, Rajasthan's factional feud continues unabated with the Gehlot and Pilot camps picking up the cudgels from where they left them just ahead of the yatra.
As the Bharat Jodo Yatra's Rajasthan leg ended on December 21, the Congress had heaved a sigh of relief as it passed the state without any face-off between the supporters of Gehlot and Pilot despite sloganeering on the roads.
But it proved to be just a brief thaw with Pilot announcing a series of public outreach events in the state which many see as a show of strength and a reminder to the high command that his grievances remain unaddressed.
In his remarks at the rallies, Pilot has cornered the Gehlot government over issues such as the repeated paper leaks and political appointments of retired bureaucrats while sidelining party workers.
At the same time, the demand from the Pilot camp to make him chief minister has also started again with leaders loyal to him openly calling for him being given the top job in the state ahead of the elections later this year.
With nearly 10 months left for assembly elections, Pilot is addressing 'Kisan Sammelans' in different districts, in which he is talking about how the party was able to form the government in 2018 after a five-year struggle on road when he was the party's state unit chief.
The former deputy chief minister is also highlighting that the number of Congress MLAs was reduced to 21 in 2013 elections that the party lost after Gehlot's second stint as CM.
A party worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "The issues are still unresolved between the two senior Congress leaders which will certainly have an adverse impact on the prospects of the party winning the next elections."
Another party worker said it is necessary for all party leaders to be united and the Gehlot-Pilot fight is bound to weaken the party.
The Congress leadership has been tight-lipped about the power tussle and only said that party president Mallikarjun Kharge and other leaders are working to find a solution to the issues there that will strengthen the organisation.
Political observers believe it would not be easy to solve the vexed issue with Gehlot digging his heels in against handing over the CM chair to Pilot, who is adamant about his demands, including action against Gehlot loyalist MLAs who had defied party directive for a legislative party meeting that was likely to authorise the AICC chief to decide on the leadership change.
Sanjay K Pandey, political commentator and professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), said the Congress is in a "catch 22" situation in Rajasthan and would find it very difficult to resolve the issue.
It is not easy for the Congress high command as Gehlot has dug in his heels and it is difficult to dislodge him from the CM's chair, he opined.
Both the leaders have their strengths and while Pilot was the state chief before the polls with a lot of appeal among the youth, Gehlot is very good at keeping his flock together, Pandey told PTI.
A major row erupted last month following Gehlot's comments that Pilot is a 'gaddar' (traitor) and cannot replace him.
The remarks drew a sharp response from Pilot who had said it was unbecoming of Gehlot's stature to use that kind of language and that such 'mudslinging' would not help at a time the focus should be on the yatra.
The escalation of the Gehlot-Pilot rift just ahead of the entry of yatra into the desert state had put the party in a spot but K C Venugopal's visit to the state calmed tempers and in a show of unity both Pilot and Gehlot posed for the cameras along with the All India Congress Committee general secretary.
The yatra had provided a much-needed uneasy peace in the Gehlot-Pilot power struggle saga.
Its route in Rajasthan was dotted with several Pilot strongholds and the foot march was boosted by massive numbers, several of them being his young supporters who raised slogans in his favour.
Pilot himself walked alongside Rahul Gandhi for most of the distance.
Gehlot also was a regular feature especially during the morning sessions of the yatra in the state.
The yatra's primary objectives have been to promote unity and highlight the failures of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government on the economic front.
Congress leaders have insisted that it was also aimed at galvanising cadres and rejuvenate the party.
While the Rahul Gandhi-led march has enthused leaders and brought them together in states it has passed through, it has not happened in Rajasthan where the infighting has continued.
Also, whether the visible unity holds in states like Karnataka where its two top leaders -- former chief minister Siddaramaiah and D K Shivakumar -- are locked in a power struggle, is still to be seen.
Significantly, former Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal joined the BJP and slammed the Congress, which he quit before starting his new political innings, for factionalism.
Though the yatra has given the party an opportunity to forge unity in its ranks, it needs to act swiftly and take tough calls to ensure that its ranks are galvanised ahead of the 2024 general elections.