“I am fighting against corruption and very much for my party - the Congress. I want to bring Congress back to power in Rajasthan and hence want us to keep the promises that we made to book corrupt leaders. My day long fast is only to draw attention to that," says Sachin Pilot, senior Congress leader, with palpable reluctance, in an exclusive interaction with Gulf News.
From being tagged as the victor of Rajasthan, where he worked as state chief for six years and slogged to bring the party back to power, then the deputy Chief Minister (CM) to Ashok Gehlot, then a rebel hoping to topple Gehlot and being called “nalayak” (useless) and “gaddar” (traitor) by Gehlot, Pilot has had a rough flight.
Huge public connect
Yet, unlike the other silver spoon leaders who flanked Rahul Gandhi in the halcyon days of the UPA rule like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasad and RPN Singh (all of whom defected to the BJP in search of greener pastures), Pilot who has a huge public connect, is in for the long haul in the Congress.
The one day fast he is undertaking on Tuesday is ostensibly to draw attention to the lack of action by the Gehlot government against the alleged corruption of Vasundra Raje Scindia when she was the CM but, is also a public signal to the Gandhi family which had made promises to make him the CM.
- Elections 2024: Yediyurappa’s comeback sets stage for BJP’s Karnataka game plan
- Fadnavis' ambitions take centrestage in Maharashtra, upsetting BJP and RSS
- Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification has united India’s opposition
- From battling depression and trolls to Oscars: The inspiring journey of Deepika Padukone
Snub from High Command
The Gandhi family was unable to effect regime change planned last September as Gehlot refused to budge from his post as the CM. It was a public humiliation of the fabled Congress High Command.
Pilot, despite the serial promises made to him, was left high and dry, yet despite the public attacks on him by Gehlot, he kept quiet signalling that he was a disciplined party faithful.
Now with elections to Rajasthan due barely six months away, Pilot, who needs to keep his supporters enthused, can prove to the party cadre that he’s very much in the game.
A panicky Congress leadership - the coterie around Rahul Gandhi - has put out a statement pointedly ignoring Pilot, the issues he’s raised and his proposed fast. Instead they have praised Gehlot.
Desert storm 2.0
This is the same coterie which has caused Pilot to go public because all his attempts to raise the promises made to him and the governance in Rajasthan were snubbed. Sources close to him talk of phones calls not taken, messages not being replied to by the top leadership.
Pilot last met Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Yatra in the Rajasthan leg. Ideally he would like Gandhi to mediate between him and Gehlot. But, the Congress President, Mallikarjun Kharge doesn’t want to touch the Pilot-Gehlot rivalry with a barge pole.
I want to bring the Congress back to power in Rajasthan and hence want us to keep the promises we made to book corrupt leaders
Ideally the Congress leadership would like to wait till the Karnataka elections are over before they venture in to Desert Storm 2.0 in Rajasthan.
Pilot, who has relentlessly toured the state and maintained a high public profile and contact, is livid, according to those close to him but in no mood to give Gehlot a walkover.
“Pilot has age on his side (he is only 45) and he is the future, why should he leave the Congress to please Gehlot? The Gandhi family should ensure succession planning which they promised him when he walked back his rebellion,” says an MLA close to Pilot.
Will Pilot take off?
The BJP curiously has not come to the defence of its former CM Vasundra Raje Scindia after Pilot made public allegations.
Scindia is currently involved in a face off with Modi and Shah who have never liked her and her headstrong leadership in Rajasthan. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, minister for Jal Shakti in the cabinet, is a Modi favourite to succeed Scindia as BJP's CM face.
So will Pilot take off from the Congress? He’s an ambitious, hard working leader who feels he has been denied his due. Yet he will not play second fiddle to regional parties like the AAP and TMC looking to expand into Rajasthan.
If he leaves the Congress, it will be to form a new version of the Congress - perhaps a Congress (Sachin). Watch this space.