On 14 December, visuals of former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan joining Rahul Gandhi at the Bharat Jodo Yatra went viral. Walking along with Gandhi and Rajan was former Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot, who has been with the Yatra throughout its route in Rajasthan.
The Yatra is presently passing through Eastern Rajasthan's Dausa district, which is Pilot's main area of influence in the state.
The Bharat Jodo Yatra's Rajasthan lap is crucial for Sachin Pilot, at a time when he's trying to figure out his fortunes both within the state Congress as well as the party's national scheme of things.
There are four aspects to this.
1. Himachal Pradesh Success
Sachin Pilot addressed around 18 rallies in the Himachal Pradesh election campaign, most of which attracted sizable crowds. Initially, he was only supposed to go for a limited number of events. But after receiving a good response, he decided to be at the Himachal Pradesh Congress' disposal for as many events as they wanted.
Pilot was among the most extensively deployed non-Himachal leaders in the Congress' campaign.
He did get his fair share of credit in the media after the Congress' convincing win in Himachal Pradesh - it won 40 seats against the BJP's 25.
The response Pilot received is politically significant - it shows that he can potentially be deployed extensively in campaigns across Hindi speaking states and not just in Rajasthan.
2. Issues Raised at Bharat Jodo Yatra
Throughout the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot has been wearing T-shirts with different slogans written on them such as 'Bekari se Rozgar tak, Aao Saath Chalein' (From unemployment to jobs, let's walk together) and 'Kisano ke Adhikar Tak, Aao Saath Chalein' (Till Farmers Get Their Rights, Let's Walk Together).
This is said to be the initiative of political consultancy firm DesignBoxed that works with Pilot.
A source in Pilot's team told The Quint that the idea behind the T-shirts was to raise issues that directly impact people and would in turn shape electoral outcomes.
Sachin Pilot also put out a video just before the Yatra entered Rajasthan inviting people for it. The video, in which Sachin Pilot can be seen running, has over 8.5 lakh views on Twitter so far.
"We wanted to come up with a novel way to capitalise on his personality, fitness, youth traction and social media traction," the member of Pilot's team said.
3. 'Gaddar' Tag All But Gone
One advantage of the Himachal Pradesh success is that the 'Gaddar' (traitor) tag that many in Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's camp have given Pilot, is all but gone at least in the view of the national leadership.
Another reason for that is the fiasco that took place during the Congress presidential election, in which Gehlot's supporters were accused of undermining central observers.
"That was the moment they lost the right to call Sachin Pilot 'Gaddar'. Till then we were always on the defensive," a Pilot loyalist MLA told The Quint.
However, Pilot didn't escalate matters during that row and chose to play it safe. Instead, he conveyed his concerns in private during a meeting with Sonia Gandhi.
Another aspect going in Pilot's favor is that while the party won Himachal, where he had campaigned, it lost badly in Gujarat, where Gehlot was managing the election.
4. Future in Rajasthan Still Uncertain
The Himachal win may have improved Pilot's stock nationally but there is still a tough road ahead of him in Rajasthan politics.
As of now, there aren't any indications that Gehlot resigning and making way for anyone, leave alone Pilot.
Even the Gehlot-loyalists who were served show-cause notices are yet to be removed from their positions. In contrast, Ajay Maken, has quit as the party's in-charge for Rajasthan. Maken had faced some opposition from Gehlot supporters during the presidential election,
Also even if Gehlot resigns and his loyalists are punished, that still doesn't mean Pilot would get to be CM immediately.
There are still many MLAs in Rajasthan who are fine with Gehlot being replaced but not with Pilot being made CM.
In the end, a great deal would depend on how the new Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge handles the Rajasthan matter.
In all likelihood, this would become clearer after the Bharat Jodo Yatra finishes towards January end.