Post-Punjab, Congress Plan for Rajasthan & Gujarat Focuses On Pilot
Taking on the Modi-Shah duo in Gujarat is a big leap for Sachin Pilot, but it would leave no backdoor open for him.
Rumour mills are working overtime in Rajasthan, fierce battles are being fought on WhatsApp chat groups, and Twitter is flooded with all kinds of views and opinions about the long-due and imminent change of guard being speculated in Rajasthan since Ashok Gehlot took over the reins for the third time in the desert state.
Speculation and opinions of all colours and hues started pouring in after Sachin Pilot posted a picture of Speaker Dr CP Joshi and himself after a meeting at Joshi’s residence on September 23.
Joshi was in his informal best, while a stiff Sachin Pilot posing for the picture clearly hinted at a cordial meeting over the stressful issues affecting the young Pilot.
On Friday, Pilot was casually meeting supporters and visitors at his official bungalow, allotted to him as Deputy Chief Minister, when he got a call from 24 Akbar Road for the evening meeting at New Delhi. Organisational Secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), KC Venugopal, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan, was present at the meeting held at Tughlaq lane, along with Rahul Gandhi. Priyanka Gandhi also dropped in for a tete-a-tete, while the AICC in-charge of Rajasthan, Ajay Maken, was present at the venue but not in the meeting.
A Detailed Career Graph For Sachin Pilot
Maken has time and again said that Pilot is an asset for the Congress party and the statement reflects the view of the Congress high command in no uncertain terms. Young, suavé and dynamic, Sachin Pilot represents everything Congress wants to be in future, barring the impatience and sky-high political ambition.
If sources are to be believed, Sachin Pilot has been given an option to work for the party organisation and would possibly be made AICC in-charge of Gujarat for a crucial election slated in December next year.
The career ladder offered to Pilot includes the next step at the helm of Rajasthan if he can prove his mettle against the Modi-Shah duo on their home turf.
Pilot wanted his karma-bhumi to be at the banks of the Dravyavati river in Jaipur, as he had shown willingness to work in the party organisation in Rajasthan. However, the high command wants him to camp on the banks of Sabarmati.
Gehlot Also Served a Notice Period
It is not that the Congress high command is giving a free hand to the incumbent Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot. As per informed sources, Gehlot has also been served a notice period of one year to perform or perish.
The challenges before Ashok Gehlot include fighting growing anti-incumbency, unemployment, increasing crime, particularly against women and minor girls, and, above all, promoting youth within the Congress party and government through political appointments, which could convince the Congress high command that the party's future is in safe hands in Rajasthan. To prove himself on these counts, magician Ashok Gehlot would have to change the gear as ‘old tricks’ may no longer work.
The OBC push by the BJP in the recent Union Cabinet expansion was also an important factor, in light of which Gehlot has been assigned to counter in Rajasthan. Pilot has an inherent advantage on this count against Gehlot as he is young, educated and an OBC, while Gehlot would have to look beyond Vaibhav Gehlot for these traits in the next generation of Congress in Rajasthan.
The high command is watching the magician closely for the delivery of results, starting with two by-elections in Vallabh Nagar and Dhariyawad in the Mewar region.
Changing Internal Dynamics
Rahul Gandhi had been unhappy with the attempted coup by Sachin Pilot in July 2020 and ignored him completely when he visited Kishangarh in Ajmer later that year. But it was Priyanka Gandhi who extended support to Sachin Pilot, given his mass appeal among the Gurjar community, which makes a sizable chunk of floating voters in western Uttar Pradesh. Sachin Pilot belongs to Vedpura village near Noida in Uttar Pradesh and comes from the locally influential Vidhuri sub-clan of Gurjars.
However, the dynamics are now shifting out of Uttar Pradesh, as Congress has realised that it is no longer the lead challenger to Yogi Adityanath-led BJP in Uttar Pradesh, that it is Akhilesh Yadav who should lead the charge, and that ‘secular’ votes should not get divided.
Thus, the changing strategy of the Congress party has opened up scope for Sachin Pilot to shatter the glass box of the community leader of Gurjar to lead the party in a state like Gujarat, where the BJP would come out all-guns-blazing under the close watch of PM Narendra Modi himself. The influential Patel community in Gujarat is expected to welcome Pilot with open arms, which, in turn, could set off alarm bells in the Gujarat BJP.
New Vistas for Sachin Pilot
With Rahul Gandhi trying to transform the grand old party from a mass-based behemoth into a cadre-based system, the new development augurs well with horizons that are opening up for Sachin Pilot. With Assembly elections in Rajasthan still two years away, he has all the time to prove his mettle as a strategist and organiser to lead the Congress party in Gujarat and give a tough fight.
Commandeering election battles on unknown grounds would provide Sachin Pilot with an opportunity that he has been so far bereft of in his political career spanning around two decades.
On the other hand, pitching Pilot against the Modi-Shah duo would drive him to a point that would not have any backdoor open, crushing the possibility for any future coup against the Congress leadership.
The bait has been laid for Sachin Pilot, and it’s a Hobson's choice.
(Arvind Singh is a senior journalist based in Jaipur. He tweets @DrArvind_Singh. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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