Ashok Gehlot-Sachin Pilot make one last effort to put up an united front

In the last stretch of campaigning in Rajasthan, the Congress changed its tack from Gehlot leading the solo charge to bringing in Pilot and the Central leadership

November 24, 2023 10:56 pm | Updated November 25, 2023 01:59 am IST - New Delhi:

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and party leader Sachin Pilot at Taranagar in Churu district on November 16, 2023.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and party leader Sachin Pilot at Taranagar in Churu district on November 16, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Making one last effort to put up a united front ahead of the Rajasthan Assembly elections, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot tweeted a promotional video from his former Deputy Sachin Pilot referring to him as “Congress’s young leader”. The five years of the Congress government were marked by intense power struggle between the two, bookended by Mr. Pilot’s rebellion of 2020 and 2022 revolt by MLAs supporting Mr. Gehlot.

In July 2020, MLAs supporting Mr. Pilot refused to attend a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) called at the behest of Chief Minister Mr. Gehlot. In 2022, MLAs supporting Mr. Gehlot skipped the CLP meeting called on behalf of the high command at Delhi which was keen to place Mr. Pilot in the Chief Minister’s chair, before Mr. Gehlot’s investiture as party president.

 Mr. Pilot’s video appealing for votes which was posted on the social media accounts of the Chief Minister comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks that Mr. Pilot’s father Rajesh Pilot was “punished” by the Congress leadership and is now meting the same treatment to him. 

In the last stretch of the campaigning, the party changed its tack from Mr. Gehlot leading the solo charge to bringing in Mr. Pilot and the Central leadership. Mr. Gehlot, in this campaign, addressed 64 rallies and held eight road shows. In comparison, Mr. Pilot, who is contesting from Tonk, stepped out of his constituency only on November 16. He has so far addressed public meetings in over 30 Assembly constituencies outside of his, speaking at four to five public meetings in a day. “We had been getting several calls from the candidates inviting Mr. Pilot to campaign in this constituencies but we were provided with an helicopter by the Congress only in the last five days of the campaign,” a source close to Mr. Pilot said. 

Gujjar vote bank

Both Mr. Modi’s comments and the Congress’s efforts to use Mr. Pilot in the campaign are aimed at consolidating the Gujjar vote bank which constitute nearly 10% of the State’s population and could swing the electoral fortunes in at least 35-40 seats. In the 2018 Assembly elections, the Gujjar population had consolidated in favour of the Congress as they hoped that Mr. Pilot, also a Gujjar, will be made the Chief Minister. Though there are no uniform trends, there is palpable sense of disappointment in the Gujjar dominated pockets, of Mr. Pilot being denied the position and equally there is disenchantment with Mr. Pilot, for not being able to assert himself.  

Rajasthan goes to polls on Saturday.

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