The Indian National Congress party has been ignoring the desert storm brewing in Rajasthan’s sand dunes, which may cost the party an important young leader — Sachin Pilot. The serial battle, which is fast turning into epic political rivalry, between Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his erstwhile deputy Pilot may give the Bharatiya Janata Party the edge in the upcoming Rajasthan elections.
Currently, the brains trust of the Congress, the Gandhi family and party President Malikarjun Kharge are pretending that they haven’t seen the storm brewing. For the Gandhi family, it is an embarrassment as their personal assurances to give Pilot a shot at the top job made him walk back on his rebellion. Something clearly changed after that, as close aides of the Gandhi family, comprising K.C. Venugopal, Jairam Ramesh and others, have stopped taking Pilot’s calls and do not even reply to his text messages.
Perhaps, the Gandhi family needs to remember the Pilot family history: Sachin’s father Rajesh Pilot was a young and charismatic leader determined to run for Congress presidency before he died in a car crash. Pilot junior is a chip of the old block committed to fulfilling his ambition of becoming the Rajasthan chief minister.
The youngster is unapologetic about his ambitions and insists he should be rewarded for working hard to deliver the state to Congress. Pilot is also angry that his supporters are dwindling since Gehlot dangles political goodies before them.
Pilot is a smart politician; he knows his ambition won’t be fulfilled in the BJP, which has numerous CM’s in waiting like Vasundhara Raje Scindia and Gajendra Shekhawat.
The Congress’s stock response — can’t really call it a political strategy — is to drop Pilot from the star campaigner list for the Karnataka elections, which will hardly deter the young leader.
After his day-long fast to protest the inaction against the Gehlot government corruption, Pilot is ready to turn up the heat.
The Congress party’s lack of a succession plan is at the heart of the problem. They don’t have the BJP’s Margdarshak Mandal (old age home for leaders above 75). The Gandhi family also lacks the political ruthlessness of BJP’s top two, who consigned founder L.K. Advani to the political wilderness.
Resource crunch of Congress
Another important factor is the empty coffers of the Congress party, and Gehlot runs one of the few governments that contribute funds to the depleted party. Remember, in politics, he who pays the piper calls the tune.
The acute resource crunch hampers the Congress as it squares off against the BJP, one of the most well-funded political parties in the world. The once fabled Congress high command is scrambling for funds with general elections barely a year away.
Leaders like Gehlot and Kamalnath, stalwarts at generating funds, are popular in Congress. The Gandhi family has also drafted Kamalnath to placate Pilot and ensure he doesn’t quit the party.
Pilot, who has a huge brand recall, has been getting feelers from parties like the Aam Aadmi Party and caste-based local parties. Pilot is a smart politician; he knows his ambition won’t be fulfilled in the BJP, which has numerous CM’s in waiting like Vasundhara Raje Scindia and Gajendra Shekhawat.
He has also been resisting attempts to move him to Delhi since his focus is on the Rajasthan top job. The clock is ticking, and Pilot might soon take off (pardon the pun) unless Congress cuts him a good deal.