The the corporate world, Pilot’s foray into public life


The Rajasthan Legislative Assembly elections of
2018 are going to be a litmus test for the BJP led National Democratic Alliance
at the center for 2019. The BJP formed the government in the 2013 elections
with a stunning tally of 163 seats in the 200 member Rajasthan Assembly. This
was of course followed by a victory in all 25 Lok Sabha seats thereby making
the state a stronghold. The subsequent road ahead for Chief Minister Vasundhara
Raje Scindia however, has not been a smooth one. From getting embroiled in the
Lalit Modi controversy, to facing rebellion from her party colleagues; Raje has
had quite an eventful tenure so far. The state of Rajasthan has a reputation
for having cyclical power dynamics, where the Congress and the BJP have been in
power for alternate terms. All interested parties are therefore well aware that
the outcomes for this key state are unpredictable.


After an unexpectedly heartening show in
Gujarat, the Congress would be making every attempt to breach the barriers in
the neighboring state as well. Assuming that they come up with the correct
concoction to topple the incumbent government, one cannot write off the grand
old party just yet. The elections will also be a test for the newly appointed
Congress President Rahul Gandhi who has assured the electorate that the efforts
in the state will be guided by a “collective leadership”.

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The man at
the helm of affairs is Sachin Pilot, a second-generation leader who was a part
of the UPA government as the Minister for Corporate Affairs, representing the
constituency of Ajmer. One of the youngest ministers of the Manmohan Singh
cabinet, Pilot is amongst the new age politicians of the party and has proven
his administrative abilities time and again. A management graduate who gave up
a chance to make it big in the corporate world, Pilot’s foray into public life
was inspired by his father, the late Rajesh Pilot. During his tenure as a
Member of Parliament, Pilot worked extensively to set up the
Citizens’ Alliance against Malnutrition, an advocacy group for eradicating hunger
and severe nutrition deficiency in children in India. A dignified, eloquent
speaker who has put forth the party’s views on the national level, Sachin Pilot
is an articulate leader who can turn the tide for the Congress in Rajasthan.


The Sachin Pilot led team has started an extensive
outreach campaign with hopes of tapping the pulse of the rural regions. The aim
as stated by Pilot is to run an “affirmative and positive” campaign to confront
the Bharatiya Janata Party and be a viable alternative to the voters in the
state. The Congress put up a good show in the bye-elections to the Zilla
Parishad, Panchayat Samitis, and Municipal Councils and that has been a very
encouraging sign for the cadres. Two Lok Sabha seats and one assembly seat are
also in the fray for by-elections which will take place on January 29,2018. The
Congress star campaigners include the former Chief Minister of the state Ashok
Ghelot, state chief Sachin Pilot, general secretary C.P. Joshi amongst others.
Rahul Gandhi has opted to sit on the sidelines for the upcoming by-elections.

The two Lok Sabha seats of Ajmer and Alwar are
going for by-polls owing to the demise of the sitting Bharatiya Janta Party MPs
– Sanawar Lal Jat (Ajmer) and Mahant Chandnath (Alwar). Interestingly, Jat
defeated Pilot by 170,000 votes in the 2014 General Elections. Chandnath had
defeated Congress leader Jitendra Singh by 284,000 votes. The by-elections are
a prestige battle for the Congress and the fate of these two constituencies
will set the tone for the assembly elections that will follow.


The Congress is optimistic about its chances
and the functionaries have been launching scathing attacks on the incumbent Raje
government. The state ranks second in human trafficking and third in cases of
rape and there seem to be no visible actions to improve the state’s rank on key
human index parameters. The state also faced a crisis on the agrarian front
with disgruntled farmers launching protests and seeking a loan waiver from the
government. Kicking off its electoral campaign, the Congress has opted to go
for an unique approach and is coming up with constituency specific manifestoes.


The infamous Criminal Laws (Rajasthan
Amendment) Bill tabled in the assembly last year created an uproar. The bill sought
to protect serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants from
being investigated for on-duty actions and prosecution. The bill also proposed
barring the media from reporting on allegations against them without the
government’s prior sanction. The bill was vehemently opposed from all quarters
for being a threat to the right to freedom of speech and expression. Sachin
Pilot was amongst the many who were detained in the aftermath thereby making
this an extremely contentious issue during the run-up to the elections.


Sachin Pilot is going to be a key figure for
the aspirations of the Congress in Rajasthan. This is evident from the fact
that his name was taken out of consideration to contest the Ajmer seat, to
focus instead on the state-wide campaign. However, the Congress faces an uphill
task as far as the leadership is concerned, for there is a chance of infighting
within the ranks. Keeping the convention of not naming a chief ministerial
candidate in mind, there’s no clarity from the party high command on who will
be the CM face in the state. Rumors are rife that Sachin Pilot is being readied
for the post. However, the faction supporting Ashok Ghelot will be making all-out
attempts to stake a claim on the post for the third time. Naming a chief
ministerial candidate had made a significant impact on the Congress’s case in
Punjab and it will be interesting to see if the same line of logic is
replicated in Rajasthan.



The state of Rajasthan is crucial from the electoral
gains point of view. The Congress will be taking all measures to make the most
from the bipolarity of electorate. Though there has been no clarity as to who
will be the CM face, it will be interesting to see if a second-generation youth
leader like Pilot is allowed to take center stage.