Rajasthan 2018

Rajasthan Assembly elections 2018: Pilot doesn’t have the going easy in Tonk

Sachin Pilot campaigning in Tonk, Rajasthan   | Photo Credit: PTI

One of the most watched electoral contests in Rajasthan is at Tonk, where the BJP has fielded its lone Muslim candidate and Minister, Yunus Khan, against Congress State president Sachin Pilot.

The town, about 80 km from Jaipur, has a large Muslim presence and Mr. Pilot was supposed to win easily. But the BJP has made a contest of it, bringing Mr. Khan from Didwana in Nagaur here, something observers say is aimed at making a dent in the Congress’s Muslim votes. Ajit Singh Mehta, sitting BJP MLA, has been found wanting in connect with the constituency, residents say.

Mr. Khan has been camping in the town and visiting Muslim-majority localities daily, aiming to get the community’s support.

Muslims make up the largest community in Tonk, followed by Gujjars and Malis. Mr. Pilot belongs to the Gujjar caste, which fancies the chance of having a Chief Minister, and Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to the Mali caste.

How Muslims vote is likely to determine who wins. The titular Nawab of Tonk, Aftab Ali Khan, has called upon Muslims to vote for Mr. Pilot.

“We have nothing personal against Yunus Khan but we have a problem with the party he belongs to. We dislike the BJP and will vote for the Congress,” says Haji Mohammad Omar, who has spent several decades in the town. He predicts that despite being a Muslim, Mr. Khan will not be able to wean away large numbers of Muslims from the Congress.

Community maths

“Add the Gujjars to a large chunk of Muslims and Sachin Pilot should be through. There are nearly 55,000 Muslims here and 30,000 Gujjars,” he adds. “The Malis, who number about 20,000, may split. The differences between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot are well known,” he says.

Some distance away, a large group of Muslims vindicates Mr. Omar. “We are not looking at community but at the party here,” says an aged Tariq Ali. “The BJP thinks we will vote on a communal basis and the Congress will be in trouble. Let us prove we can make a Hindu win against a Muslim. And let us see if the BJP, which has fielded Yunus Khan here, can make a Muslim win the way they make Hindu candidates win.”

Sensing that Muslims hold the ke, Mr. Pilot wonders in every speech in Tonk whether the BJP would get Yogi Adityanath to campaign here.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 2:17:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/elections/rajasthan-assembly-elections-2018/rajasthan-assembly-elections-2018-pilot-doesnt-have-the-going-easy-in-tonk/article25674197.ece

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