What Are The Ramifications Of Betting On Sachin Pilot?
By a rough estimation, Pilot will have to arguably wait until 2028 to become the chief minister if he stays with the Congress.
He will be aged 50 years by then. At the current point in time, waiting for so long in an ideologically hollow party doesn’t evoke conviction.
A political fiasco in Rajasthan might have unfolded in the last week or so, but the recipe for the crisis was knowingly brewing since December 2018. Ashok Gehlot’s anointment as Chief Minister of the desert state understandably bothered Sachin Pilot, and the tensions between the duo have existed glaringly in the public eye ever since.
However, these are well-known notions. There’s no point pondering upon the dynamics that Pilot and Gehlot share. Instead, the whole situation poses a curious question in front of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Ever since the Indian National Congress played a vital role in the coming together of the Maha Vikas Agadhi in November 2019 to defy a resounding mandate for Devendra Fadnavis, a fightback has seemed inevitable.
Accordingly, the Madhya Pradesh government was won back in March this year after Jyotiraditya Scindia’s departure from the INC and subsequent induction into the BJP. There has been a persistent notion floating around that the BJP would successfully replicate a similar pattern in Rajasthan.
That is, making space for Sachin Pilot’s camp and in turn working out an amicable consensus as was done with Scindia. However, the factors associated with Pilot are vastly different when compared to the ‘Maharaja’ of Gwalior. Let us examine them gradually.
Firstly, both the individuals were betrayed by the senior Congress leadership at more or less the same point in time when they went ahead with Nath and Gehlot for the chief ministerial posts. Once that happened, Scindia did not show any major aspirations to play a formidable role in state politics thereafter. His demand seemed to be pretty clear: either the CM post or nothing in the government.
Digvijay Singh even that the party offered him the post of a deputy CM but Scindia rejected that move and asked for his aide Tulsiram Silawat to be given that honour, which Nath didn’t agree to.
The same could not be said about Pilot, though.The 42-year-old accepted the role of a deputy to Gehlot and got immersed in Rajasthan, whereas Jyotiraditya campaigned extensively in the union elections and was even the AICC general secretary in-charge of Western Uttar Pradesh.
It needs to be noted that the duo had held cabinet posts during the UPA regime. Yet, Pilot didn’t take the route of Scindia to completely contribute on the national level in the general elections and instead limited himself to Rajasthan.
Now, Scindia has been nominated to the Rajya Sabha from a BJP ticket and might even be handed a ministry sometime in the future. But will Pilot agree to make that jump?
It also arguably signals that the scion from Madhya Pradesh had probably made his mind to play a greater role from the Hindi heartland, but Pilot still craved for that elusive chief ministerial slot of the desert state.
That simply isn’t a possibility in the BJP, as the ubiquitous figure of Vasundhra Raje looms prevalently over the state unit.
Take this example. The internal party system was known to be quite centralised when Amit Shah held the presidential post.
Yet, Raje managed to get her way and appoint a relatively feathery late Madan Lal Saini as the state BJP president in Rajasthan in July 2018. Shah’s choice of the current minister of Jal Shakti, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, for the crucial post was formidably battled by Raje’s resistance.
The position remained vacant for a massive 71 days post April 18 (2018) since Ashok Parmani stepped down, and Raje emerged victorious in the tussle. Will an individual who feistily challenged Amit Shah allow a newbie in Pilot to play a prominent role in Rajasthan if and when he joins the party?
Moreover, close to 40 BJP MLAs are believed to be close aides of Vasundhra Raje, and hence their consensus would solely lie with the female bigwig of the state. The only alternative for the ex-deputy CM will be to don a responsibility in the Union government and for that, he will have to sacrifice his state-based political ambitions for the time being at least.
Political consultant Rohan Sachdeva differs over here. Sachdeva, who has previously worked in the Railways Ministry as well stated, “With Vasundhara Raje's influence and political credentials waning over the years, Sachin Pilot's connect with the people, as well as the fact that he has age on his side, could provide the BJP with a fresh start in the state of Rajasthan.”
He added, “The issue does remain, however, as it did with Scindia, of his lateral entry into a party that takes pride in its cadre-based system, in a move that could demotivate party workers who firmly believe in the BJP's merit-based system.”
Secondly, the larger issue is that Sachin Pilot comes with a Kashmiri baggage that one needs to be cautious of. It is imperative to consider that his in-laws belong to the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference. Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah were under house arrest for more than seven months after the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent abolishment of Article 35 (A).
In the meanwhile, they were detained under the Public Safety Act, with the senior Abdullah becoming the first mainstream politician to be charged with the same. On 5 February this year, Sachin’s wife, Sara Abdullah Pilot, moved the Supreme Court against the detention of her brother and also sought his immediate release.
The government’s decision to revoke the treacherous Article 370 and the trifurcation of the territory to different union territories has been one of its landmark calls, executed with supreme precision and authority. It is one of those civilisational decisions that carry the potential of defining the legacy of the Narendra Modi-led government years from now.
The Jammu & Kashmir National Conference and the Jammu & Kashmir Peoples Democratic Front have persistently been two of the most significant roadblocks in the implementation of the same.
Their intentions are best defined by Abhijit Iyer Mitra, a national security strategist and a senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. Mitra asserts and explains that Abdullah and Mufti in Kashmir aren’t ‘pro-India mainstream’, they are just not openly anti-India.’
Omar Abdullah is sidelined from popular conformist Kashmiri politics as of now, and Pilot’s possible inclusion in the BJP should not in any way create a path for his brother-in-law’s transition back to the mainstream. The ruling party has been firm and rather non-negotiable on the ideological and administrative front as far as Kashmir is concerned.
Hence the former Rajasthan PCC chief’s views on the government’s stand on the state can possibly be under the scanner in the coming times.
Interestingly, Jyotiraditya Scindia had deviated from the party line and openly supported the government’s move in early August, calling it to be in the country’s national interest. At that time, Pilot didn’t comment on the scrapping of Article 370 and instead, criticised the arrest of the former CMs of the northern state.
In October though, he took a on the topic and remarked that the Modi government was well within its moral rights to take the concerned decision but could have implemented it better. Both these leaders, once considered to be Rahul Gandhi’s trusted aides, didn’t tread the path that the MP from Wayanad did and tackled the whole issue in a delicate way whilst being in the Congress.
Looking at the brighter side of the matter, any ambitious political party will be pleased to acquire Sachin Pilot’s services. In his early forties itself, the leader, very strategically, ensured that the Congress claimed back power in Rajasthan.
The party had plummeted to a mere 21 seats in the 200-seat Assembly in 2013, after five years of Ashok Gehlot’s regime. Pilot took over as the president of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee a month after this debacle in January 2014.
Over the course of the next five years, he revamped the structure of the party in the state. In his , Pilot ensured that the district leaders were completely in power and in hold of the proceedings.
He offered them absolute autonomy to take their own decisions and believed that there was a lack of initiative in the lower levels if leaders from Jaipur and New Delhi attempt to attain more command over them.
The former Minister of Corporate Affairs opted for a decentralised approach towards operating the party and gained immaculate success, much in contrast to the senior Congress leadership of today.
He securely remained in-charge, but still gave the other leaders enough space to develop and eventually stimulate a revival that increased his party’s seat count by almost five times in 2018.
Pilot has displayed commendable organisational skills, and to do so at the age of 42 indicates that he can only be honed to flourish furthermore in the years to come. Does he have a platform to do so in the Congress? That’s debatable.
It’s true that the commissioned officer from the Territorial Army didn’t get his due after the 2018 polls. However, some are of the opinion that Pilot could have been the flag-bearer, the chief ministerial face of the party by 2023.
Rajasthan was under presidential rule from December 1992-1993. Then, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was sworn in as the CM on 3 December 1993 and it has been a fairly smooth ride for the state ever since. Shekhawat completed his tenure very conveniently and so have the likes of Gehlot and Raje ever since 1998.
The Congress and the BJP have been elected to power alternatively since 1993 and hence the general assumption suggests that a similar course will follow in 2023. By a rough estimation, Pilot will have to arguably wait until 2028 to become the chief minister if he stays with the Congress.
He will be aged 50 years by then. At the current point in time, waiting for so long in an ideologically hollow party doesn’t evoke conviction. Moreover, the Congress is not transmitting signals of recovering its stature on the national level anytime soon, and accordingly, Pilot can encounter a stumbling block in his fledging career in a few years from now.
At the same time, his influence amongst the Gujjar and the Meena communities in Rajasthan makes him a viable figure to bank on. The two castes find prevalence in 28 Assembly constituencies of Bharatpur, Dausa, Karauli, Sawai and Jaipur Rural.
In the , Congress won 23 of those 28 seats whereas BJP could emerge victorious in only two of them i.e. Phulera and Amber. One of the two individuals to have won over here is the present state BJP chief Satish Punia himself.
Otherwise, there is a reflection that the party hasn’t performed adequately in the concerned areas that provided the Congress an incisive edge eventually. The other three seats were won over by two independent candidates and Dr Subhash Garg of the Rashtriya Lok Dal from the Bharatpur constituency.
Compare the outcomes of these 28 seats to 2013, and BJP had won 18 of them back then. INC had triumphed over seven constituencies whereas the National People’s Party stamped its authority in three constituencies.
The saffron party lost its ground in 16 seats in the aforementioned areas when one compares the 2013 and 2018 elections. Interestingly, Congress upped its margin by the exact same number and it wouldn’t be a long shot to assert that Pilot had a pivotal role to play in this key upswing.
The Gujjar community has traditionally backed the BJP, but those dynamics altered significantly with Pilot’s emergence in state politics. The party fielded 10 candidates belonging to that caste in 2013 Assembly elections, and nine of those individuals secured a victory.
However, their Gujjar representation in the legislative Assembly dropped to zero in the 2018 polls.
The community saw a beacon of hope in Sachin Pilot, someone who represents their group, to become the chief minister in December 2018 and hence backed the Congress completely by taking their count of Gujjar leaders in the Assembly to seven from four in 2013.
Pilot’s sidelining by the Congress possibly encouraged BJP to look for a quick-fix solution and they welcomed vigilant Gujjar representative and an ex-colonel Kirori Lal Bainsla along with his son Vijay Bainsla just ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in April 2019.
Though the Bainsla duo were not expected to add incredible value straightaway, it did suggest that the party was on the lookout for a leader who can mobilise the Gujjars to return back to their fold.
With Pilot’s widespread acceptance amongst the Meena group as well, he does appear to be someone who can aid the party to crack the missing caste code convincingly soon.
A leader who boasts of proven and laudable administrative abilities, a genuine connect with the masses, fits into the electoral demands of the party and can potentially take up integral responsibilities in the Union level in the future — Sachin Pilot appears to be a formidable force to bet on.
Yet, there are certain apprehensions that arrive with him, as discussed beforehand, and they will have to be taken care of very finely.
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