The Road Not To Be Taken: Why Sachin Pilot Is Unlikely To Follow Scindia’s Route And Exit Congress

The Road Not To Be Taken: Why Sachin Pilot Is Unlikely To Follow Scindia’s Route And Exit Congress

by Devendra Pratap Singh Shekhawat - Sunday, June 14, 2020 04:23 PM IST
The Road Not To Be Taken: Why Sachin Pilot Is Unlikely To Follow Scindia’s Route And Exit CongressSachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia. 
  • While rumours and stories abound, here are all the reasons why Sachin Pilot will very likely stay firmly put with the Congress.

In March this year, when Rahul Gandhi’s trusted lieutenant, Jyotiraditya Scindia, left the Indian National Congress and joined the BJP, news of other members of the ‘Young Turk’ group of the Congress following his footsteps started doing the rounds immediately.

The name which made headlines was that of Rajasthan’s Deputy Chief Minister, Sachin Pilot, whose power tussle with CM Ashok Gehlot has been quite evident for some time now.

With the announcement of new dates for Rajya Sabha elections and resuming of resort politics in the state, the news has again started doing the rounds in the political corridors of Rajasthan.

Like Scindia, Pilot was also denied the CM’s chair. But the fresh reason was Gehlot recommending the nomination of diamond merchant Rajiv Arora as Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan, whereas Pilot had firmly opposed the move. According to reports, he had insisted on party workers being nominated.

Rajya Sabha elections were due in March last week but now will be held on 19 June.

Sachin Pilot too has a reason to exit.

In 2013, BJP swept the Rajasthan Assembly elections under the Modi wave with Congress winning a mere 25 seats in the 200-member Assembly.

Sachin Pilot was handpicked by the then-INC vice-president Rahul Gandhi as the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee (RPCC) president in 2015.

Pilot revamped the Congress in Rajasthan from scratch with his ‘Safa’ (turban) pledge to a varied number of yatras.

He tried to rebuild the party.

But this lone lion in the field got haunted when Ashok Gehlot returned to state politics after the 2018 Karnataka elections.

Since then, the debate around the post of the CM erupted, with the Congress always dodging the question.

Before the Rajasthan Assembly elections, there was a popular theory which did the rounds in the political corridors of Rajasthan — If Congress gets around 120-130 seats, then Sachin Pilot will be the CM; if around 100-110, then it will be the regional satrap Ashok Gehlot”.

As luck would have it, the results came in the Old Maverick's favour as Congress got 99 seats, BJP 73, BSP 6, RLD 1, RLP 3, Independent 13, and Others 4.

Congress was one short of a majority, but their ally RLD’s seat made things easy for them.

BSP also supported the Congress.

But when it came to choosing the CM, the matter got delayed by another 48 hours.

Among the two contenders, the old guard led by Ashok Gehlot won the race after senior Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra's intervention.

While Pilot was asked to settle for the post of the Deputy Chief Minister (a ceremonial post), the major departments of Home and Finance were taken by Gehlot himself.

Since then, from Lok Sabha ticket allocations to power dynamics, the war of words between Gehlot and Pilot camps has surfaced on various occasions.

In March too, when Scindia left the Congress, both Gehlot and Pilot were in a tug of war for a Rajya Sabha seat.

With media hype and rumours in the political corridors, these points raised the probabilities that Pilot could possibly follow the same way as Scindia.

Jyotiraditya Scindia is a erstwhile royal while Sachin Pilot is an outsider.

Pilot’s family originally belongs to Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, and hence he is considered a political outsider.

Rajasthan has been the ‘Karma Bhoomi’ of the Pilot family since his father Rajesh Pilot’s first election in 1980 from Bharatpur.

Rajesh Pilot had started his career with the Indian Air Force and later entered politics through his pilot friend Rajiv Gandhi.

He served as a Congress MP for five terms (four from Dausa) and also held various portfolios as a Union Cabinet Minister.

In 2000, he died in a car accident in Dausa.

After his death, his wife Rama Pilot won in a by-election from Dausa in 2001 and transferred the seat two years later to her Wharton MBA graduate son, Sachin Pilot.

Pilot served as a junior minister in the UPA-2 government. However, he lost the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Ajmer, after which he returned to state politics as the State Congress president in 2014.

Jyotiraditya Scindia belongs to the erstwhile royal family of Gwalior.

His grandfather, Jiwaji Rao, was the last titular Maharaja of Gwalior. The Scindia family is almost a century old in Indian politics. His grandmother, Vijaya Raje Scindia was among the founding members of the BJP, and one of the towering women politicians in India.

His father Madhavrao, was a senior Congress leader who served as a cabinet minister in different capacities.

Scindia's aunt, Vasundhara Raje, served as Chief Minister of Rajasthan twice and is the national vice-president of the BJP.

Whereas, his other aunt Yashodhara Raje is a former cabinet minister and BJP MLA from Shivpuri.

After his father's death in 2001, Jyotiraditya fought elections from their family pocket borough Guna-Shivpuri in 2002 and retained it till 2019.

Both Pilot and Scindia are members of the ‘Baba Log Gang’, joined politics within an interval of two years.

The duo even rose through the ranks in the party and government due to their proximity to Rahul Gandhi.

But it was in 2014 during the Modi wave that their paths to stature and fame diverged when Pilot lost the general elections but Scindia managed to retain his seat.

Since then, it is the surprise promotion of Pilot in 2014 which is working for him till now.

Who's more powerful?

When it comes to power, Pilot has an upper hand as he is a member of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly, the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan and the President of Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee since 2014.

Whereas, after losing the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Scindia scion wasn't left with anything apart from some negligible, not-so-noteworthy promotions.

In 2018, he had been the front runner for the post of Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, but lost the race to Kamal Nath.

Since then, he had been demanding the cap of Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief.

In January last year, he was made the general secretary of UP West, a post he didn't want.

He was also made the head of the Screening Committee for the Maharashtra Assembly Polls. Compared to Scindia, Pilot was not totally sidelined or a lost candidate.

He has a few posts on his plate and is an active representative of the people.

Power was the major factor behind Scindia's exit from the Congress.

After losing the 2019 Lok Sabha election, he wasn't left with any power and after being denied a Rajya Sabha seat from MP, he parted ways.

Pilot, who is even violating the party's policy of ‘One Man One Post’ by simultaneously holding two power positions together is in a much better situation.

How much does the ground favour the young champs?

The Gwalior-Chambal region in Madhya Pradesh is considered as the Scindia family's stronghold due to their origin and decades-long rule.

There, the Scindia name is a brand that goes beyond caste equations.

On the other hand, the Pilot family's stronghold was in the Gujjar-dominated Dausa belt which was their family pocket borough until Sachin Pilot moved to Ajmer in 2009.

Since then Pilot hasn't managed to hold any region as he lost from Ajmer in 2014 and managed to win the state elections from Tonk in 2018.

This shift further weakened his hold over the area and its caste dynamics as Gujjars account for only 4-5 per cent of the state's total population.

While the Gwalior-Chambal region has 34 Assembly constituencies, Pilot doesn't have any because he doesn't originally belong to a specific area.

He is still an outsider from UP.

As a result, Pilot is still considered an elite, arrogant and ‘blue eyed boy of the party high command’.

Even the Gujjars don't accept him as their unanimous leader.

Scindia's exit was perceived as an alarm for the Congress high command which they even took seriously.

It paved the way for other members of the ‘Young Turk’ group of the Congress to get their demands accepted.

In Rajasthan, Gehlot's aide Rajiv Arora's name was excluded and Pilot's recommendation of the party cadre as the Rajya Sabha nominee was accepted, Neeraj Dangi being given the ticket.

Before Scindia's decision, the Hooda family in Haryana too was engaged in a tussle with the party high command in demanding a Rajya Sabha seat for their scion Deepender Singh Hooda.

Soon, he was also nominated.

The political warfields of the both leaders is a bit different. In MP, Scindia was running a three-horse race along with Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh whereas in Rajasthan Ashok Gehlot is Sachin Pilot's only competitor.

For Scindia, who has his roots in BJP, it was popularly termed as a ‘homecoming’. But for Pilot, it will be an act of betrayal.

Devendra Pratap Singh Shekhawat is a fresh journalist from Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai, and belongs to Rajasthan.

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