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Is Ashok Gehlot marginalising Sachin Pilot in Rajasthan politics?

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Prakash Bhandari: The angry young man of the Congress party, Sachin Pilot, is slowly being marginalised by a shrewd Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. Sachin Pilot, the former deputy chief minister, who also doubled as the PCC chief, has not been able to get anything after leading a rebellion against Gehlot.

The month-long high voltage political drama amid the coronavirus pandemic saw Sachin Pilot leading a bunch of 22 MLAs against Ashok Gehlot that pushed the Rajasthan government to the brink.

However, after the intervention and assurances by Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, he returned to the party fold. But, Pilot has not been able to get any deal—neither for him nor for his rebel brethren. The Ahmed Patel-led three-member committee formed by the AICC to hear the grievances of Pilot and others has completed the hearing. But till now, no rehabilitation package has come out and this has left Sachin Pilot in political isolation.

Ashok Gehlot has added salt to the wounds of Pilot by plotting a plan that saw Pilot losing his clout even among his Gujjar community. Gehlot is promoting sports minister Ashok Chandna, who is an active polo player, to lead the Gujjar community that is demanding reservation.

The Gujjar community has been demanding reservation as a backward community. But such demands could materialise only after an amendment in the Constitution and Gehlot has assigned the task to hold the talk with the Gujjar community leaders, thus sidelining Pilot.

Gehlot’s plan is to promote Chandna as the face of the Gujjar community and ensure that Chandna becomes the leader of the Gujjars. This will result in Pilot losing his ground in the Gujjar community.

Chandna is the minister in-charge of the Karauli district which has been the epicentre of the Gujjar agitations. His job is to ensure development work in the district of Karauli. Chandna is trying to woo the Gujjars and establish himself as an alternative to Pilot.

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In recent time, the Gujjars from Karauli have been critical of Pilot’s role and blamed him for not working to secure reservation for Gujjars. They say that Pilot did nothing to benefit the poor Gujjars while he was the deputy chief minister and his rebellion was only meant for his political promotion.

During his recent tour of the Karauli district, Chandna tried to make inroads into the support block of Pilot’s citadel. Though strong supporters of Pilot still remain loyal to him, Chandna was still successful in making new friends among the Gujjar community.

Gehlot as a shrewd tactician is trying to reduce the support base of Pilot in the community and is promoting Gujjar MLAs like Shakuntala  Rawat in Alwar and Dheeraj Gujjar in the Bhilwara region. The aim is to systematically destroy the influence of Pilot in the districts where the Gujjars are sizeable in numbers.

The Gujjars are having a large presence in eastern Rajasthan and an effective presence in some districts of southern Rajasthan. Gehlot aims to promote the local Gujjar leadership in these areas and gradually marginalise Pilot as a tall leader of the Gujjar community.

A bye-election is due in Sahara constituency in Bhilwara district because of the death of the sitting three-time MLA Kailash Trivedi of the Congress. For the bye-election, Ashok Gehlot will send Chandna, Rawat and Dheeraj Gujjar to woo the support of the Gujjar community and to send a message that Pilot no longer enjoys the clout among the Gujjars.

Pilot, however, would be going to campaign in 12 Gujjar dominated constituencies in the Madhya Pradesh bye-elections. A request by Congress leader Kamal Nath to the AICC to send Pilot for campaigning has been made. The Gehlot camp would watch Pilot’s campaign in Madhya Pradesh to gauge his popularity there and this would be crucial for future strategies against Pilot.

 

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