Elevation of Sachin Pilot as PCC chief Infusing New Blood
The Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had little option before him having burnt his boat by trusting former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and CP Joshi for the electoral success. The electors in Rajasthan were swept away by the Modi wave so much that even the caste factor did not work. So Rahul Gandhi thought it fit to infuse new blood in a party that suffered humiliating defeat in the last December polls. People in the Congress in the state feel that Rahul Gandhi decided to pitch-fork Sachin Pilot as the PCC president because only Pilot as a young follower of Rahul could pursue his ideas of a refined process of selecting the candidates for this year’s Lok Sabha polls. Rahul idea is to field fresh faces and its basis would be the winnability factor.
With just three months in hand, Sachin’s immediate job as the PCC president is to find 25 candidates who could be fielded for the Lok Sabha elections. Rebuilding the party, whose morale is at the shoe-string height, would be an exercise in futility for Sachin, who has to unwillingly shoulder the responsibility.
It’s an irony that the country’s largest state has a Chief Minister in Vasundhara Raje, who belongs to Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan became her home after her marriage with the former ruler of Dholpur Hemant Singh.Sachin Pilot like his late father Rajesh Pilot is an alien to the state as he belongs to Ghaziabad district in Uttar Pradesh. Rajesh Pilot made Rajasthan his political base and he first contested and won from Bharatpur thriving on the Gujjar votes. Then he chose to shift to Dausa, which also had high presence of Gujjar electors. The late Rajesh Pilot built a very strong rapport with the Scheduled Tribe Meena community and the Gujjars to establish himself. He also pitch-forked Sachin’s mother Rama Pilot into politics and she was the Congress MLA and after her husband’s tragic death in a road accident near Dausa she became member of the Lok Sabha winning the Dausa seat in the by-poll. But a mother paved the way for Sachin to contest the 2004 Lok Sabha poll and win it.
Sachin was only 26 when he entered the Lok Sabha, but within five years he had to face a new challenge as the Dausa constituency was declared ST constituency following the delimitation. He had to look for a new constituency and he chose Ajmer from where he was elected. But in the recent Assembly elections, Sachin to his great surprise found that the Congress lost in all his Assembly segments in the Lok Sabha constituency. The man who could not save the party in his own citadel was made the PCC president. But the Congress had no option left as the established leaders like Gehlot and CP Joshi failed to deliver goods and the party could win only 21 seats in a House of 200.The party was so much demoralised that the Congress legislator party’s meeting was not convened even after 40 days following the declaration of the results. The PCC office wore a deserted look and the whole party was in total disarray. The party, which once decided not to have any caste factor, chose a Jat Rameshwar Dudi, a first time MLA and one time member of Lok Sabha, as the CLP leader.
CP Joshi, the former Union minister and now the AICC general secretary, who was the PCC president when the Congress came back to power in 2008, was keen to preside over the destiny of the party again. But Rahul Gandhi felt that the party lost badly only because the youth went in favour of the BJP. Thus, there was urgent need to bring back the youth into the Congress fold. “The politics of the country is under transformation and the success of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi is an example where APP thrived on focussing on issues like price rise and corruption without pushing on the caste factor. It’s high time the party had to think that casteist politics has been rejected by the people. The choice of Sachin Pilot is commendable,” said Sanjay Bapna, former AICC secretary.
But the fact remains that Rahul Gandhi has nominated a person from OBC community to counter the two Chief Ministers of both Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Shivraj Singh Chouhan is from OBC so Arun Yadav, an OBC, has been made the PCC president in Madhya Pradesh. Vasundhara Raje, who is married into the Jat royal family of Dholpur, is a Jat, which is an OBC community. Thus, Sachin as a Gujjar and part of the OBC has been made the president.
The old timers of the Congress feel that anointment of Pilot would annoy the Meenas, who are the known enemy of the Gujjars. The Gujjars were resisted by the Meenas when they demanded ST status and there were violent clashes between the two communities during the Gujjar agitation resulting in over 65 deaths. But it is on record that Sachin worked for peace between the Gujjars and the Meenas and brought them together after the bloodbath in Dausa district. The Meenas respect the integrity of Sachin and the Congress-minded Meenas would still be trusting Sachin.
The Meenas did not give their overwhelming support to Dr Kiroi Lal Meena’s RJP, as it could win only four seats including one of the Scheduled Caste. Thus, Sachin would have to work hard to get the Meenas as well as the Gujjars in the Congress fold as both the communities comprise about seven per cent of the electorate.
The Congress, in 2009, when it was in power, could win 21 out of the 25 Lok Sabha seats. It was largely because the BJP also went into grooves following the defeat of the party. The 2008 Assembly polls saw the BJP winning 79 seats, the figure was not bad or dismal, but the party lost only because it had lost the will to come back. The Congress is worse with just 21 seats won. Here is the role that Sachin will have to play. “The electoral results showed that the Congress is still in a position to win seven to eight seats. I have worked out that going by the percentage of votes polled in each constituency the Congress is in a position to revive itself in at least seven to eight Lok Sabha constituencies. But it has to field the right candidates in these seats,” said PCC spokesperson Archana Sharma.
But the senior party leaders are upset and the faction-ridden party would not be able to do the turn around without the support of the senior party leaders. Though Gehlot welcomed the appointment of Sachin, he is himself looking at the political space having been left high and dry after the party’s dismal performance. Gehlot enjoys a big clout in the party and unless Sachin gets his support it would not be easy for him to run the show. Mere appointment of Sachin will not end the dominion and conservative politics of Gehlot and Sachin has barely three months to do it.
Sachin has moulded himself like his late father. Dressed in kurta-dhoti and often sporting a turban, the Wharton Business school graduate, who once worked for BBC and General Motors, went to Shimla with his family for a holiday as the next three months would take him on the dusty and sandy tracts of Rajasthan. Sachin gives the examples of the late Chief Minister Mohan Lal Sukhadia, who was made the Chief Minister when he was 37 and he served the state for 14 long years in a row. He also cites the example of Ashok Gehlot, who was made the PCC chief when he was 34 “My appointment should not hurt the old guards of the party. I want to hold their hands and try to cross the bridge. A political party survives on synergy and not on individual strength or weaknesses,” said Pilot.
Pilot understands that the time is short and he has to travel miles and miles and he is basically aiming at 20 lakh new voters to do the turnaround. The party won 21 seats in the last Lok Sabha election. Sachin knows it well that the Congress has fair chances of winning six to eight seats and he would concentrate on this fact. A Wharton School of Business graduate from the US, Sachin will have to use all his marketing skills to do the turnaround.
By PB Chandra from Jaipur