Lok Sabha 2024: The Agony of Being Sachin Pilot

Pilot was almost an invisible presence as the author spent a few days travelling across some regions of Rajasthan.

4 min read

(This is the third in a series of insightful reports from the ground, titled The Race From India to Bharat. The author travels all across India as 960 million voters get ready to celebrate the largest festival of democracy in the world: the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. What do ordinary Indians think and feel about the past, present, and future of India? Are they convinced that the old fault lines are healing?)

(Read part one here and part two here.)

The author spent about an hour in and around Dausa, a dusty town in Rajasthan looking for a large poster or cutout of the man.

For that matter, knowing them to be his “strongholds”, the author meandered around towns like Tonk and Bandikui looking for visible markers of his “hold” over the region. Barring some half-torn and frayed posters, there was nothing to suggest that this man spent five tireless years between 2013 and 2018 traversing across the state to win a famous victory for the Congress in the 2018 assembly elections.

There is enormous subterranean love and respect for him, but Sachin Pilot was almost an invisible presence as the author spent a few days travelling across some regions of this vast state. Of course, talking to two dozen people can by no means be a barometer of political trends and fortunes.

Yet, the author got a sense that Congress supporters blame the top leadership of the party for the shoddy manner in which a “loyal” soldier like Sachin Pilot has been treated.

Even they think their earlier hopes of the party snatching away about three out of the 25 seats from the BJP will probably remain a distant dream. Perhaps in many subliminal ways, the agony of being a Sachin Pilot is symptomatic of what ails the Congress as it hustles from one disaster to another in the “Hindi Heartland”.


Smartly clad in jeans and a yellow pullover that heightened his slightly bushy mustache, Roop Singh Pilvan gets offended when the author offers to pay for Paneer Pakoda and Chai at a dhaba in Bandukui near Dausa, considered a Gujjar stronghold. Way back in 2007, Pilvan had saved the life of a junior colleague who had gone to those parts to cover the Gujjar agitation that turned violent. Pilvan dismisses those memories as if such things are routine in his life.

Pilot was almost an invisible presence as the author spent a few days travelling across some regions of  Rajasthan.

Roop Singh Pilvan.

(Photo Courtesy: Sutanu Guru)

You guessed it: Pilvan is a proud Gujjar and though a Congress member, he prefers to be called a fan of Sachin Pilot. As a youth Congress worker, he had accompanied Pilot on a tour of Rajasthan as the latter had worked hard as state Congress president to rebuild the party after a humiliating loss in the 2013 assembly elections.

Like hundreds of thousands of Congress supporters, Pilvan was gratified when the party won a narrow victory in the 2018 assembly elections. He and many others were sure that Sachin Pilot, the future of the Congress in the state, would be rewarded for his incredible stamina and determination to revive the party.

But he admits he was shocked when the Congress under Rahul Gandhi opted for the past by choosing Ashok. Gehlot. He doesn’t have any harsh words to say against the Congress. But how he speaks Hindi in that Rajasthani tilt (you have to try hard and detect the different nuances of Hindi in different states) makes it clear the wound inflicted in late 2018 has not healed.  

“Let me tell you something. During the 2021 Assam election, Sachin Pilot officially went there and addressed many rallies where there used to be between 10,000 to 20,000 people. Ashok Gehlot also went there and managed to gather a crowd of 150 after spending tons of money. Need I say more about who is a genuine grassroots mass leader? You know, even if Sachin Ji contests as an independent from the Tonk constituency, people have so much affection for him that he will win. In our party and our society, people are treated badly when their fathers die early.”

Rajesh Pilot, the father of Sachin had died in a car accident in June 2000.  The author has no way of checking how reasonable such claims are. But here are some facts. Rajesh Pilot won the Dausa Lok Sabha seat in 1984. For some inexplicable reason, the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress “persuaded” the late Pilot to abandon Dausa and contest from the Bharatpur seat in 1989. He lost. A “wiser” Congress nominated him as the Dausa candidate in 1991. He won. Rajesh Pilot won again in the Lok Sabha elections of 1996, 1998 and 1999. His widow Rama Pilot won the by-election after his death.

Sachin Pilot became the youngest Indian to become a Lok Sabha MP by winning Dausa in 2004 at the age of 26. Dausa became a reserved seat after delimitation in 2008 and he won from Ajmer in 2009. He finally lost Ajmer during the Narendra Modi wave in 2014 when the BJP swept all 25 Lok Sabha seats, repeating the feat in 2019. Since then, he has won the Tonk assembly seat twice in 2018 and 2023. 

What next? Pilvan admires Sachin Pilot for his perseverance and patience. “Look at Jyotiraditya Scindia, R P N Singh, Jitin Prasad, Jaiveer Shergill, and even Milind Deora. I think they have suffered less than what Sachin Ji has endured.” Pilvan prefers not to elaborate on what Sachin Pilot will do next. According to him, the active political career of Ashok Gehlot may be finally over. But he doesn’t have much hope. “If top leaders in Delhi keep sending people like Randeep Singh Surjewala to Rajasthan, I don’t know what the future holds.”.

Some folks near the Jai Mahal Palace in Jaipur where Gayatri Devi was once a resident (the previous column had described the Cooch Behar palace where she grew up) seem to think Sachin Pilot will be Congress chief minister of Rajasthan in 2028. Will he wait that long?  

(Sutanu Guru is the Executive Director of the CVoter Foundation. This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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