New Delhi: When former Congress president Rahul Gandhi posed with Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot on November 16 in Jaipur, he gave a clear message that the party was united and would sweep the state Assembly elections.
Along with the unity message, it was also evident that the figure of Pilot has also grown with time. There is no denying that politics is said to be a game of ups and downs, and all political leaders have seen these phases in their lifetime.
Similar is the story of Pilot, whose stature has grown in the party and in the ongoing five state Assembly polls he has been in demand after party chief Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
The pilot started his political journey in 2004 at the age of 26 years following the death of his father Rajesh Pilot in 2000.
He contested the Lok Sabha elections from Rajasthan’s Dausa and won and kept his winning momentum in 2009 from Ajmer Parliamentary constituency. He was soon elevated to the post of Minister in the Congress-led UPA government at the age of 32.
However, Congress lost terribly in the 2013 Assembly polls in Rajasthan and he too lost badly in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Pilot was made the Rajasthan Congress chief in 2013 and worked tirelessly for the next years and played a crucial role in bringing Congress to power when the grand old party was losing state after state across the country.
However, after the Congress came to power in 2018 in Rajasthan, the party chose Gehlot as the Chief Minister and Pilot as his deputy.
However, two years later, Pilot led a rebellion on the charges of being ignored by the party leadership.
This led to the fall of Pilot. He was immediately removed as Rajasthan Congress chief and from the post of Deputy Chief Minister.
Following the rebellion by Pilot, he was dubbed as a “traitor” and “of no use”. Pilot also did not succeed in his rebellion but was able to turn the tide in his favour with the party leadership with his discipline and patience despite remaining only as a party MLA.
With his dedication to the party, the party leadership asked Pilot to take a role in the central leadership, to which he refused and stayed in the state. On the instructions of the party leadership, he referred to Gehlot as his father-like figure, despite that Gehlot kept slamming Pilot.
In the meantime, Pilot got himself engaged in the Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Goa.
Pilot became the most popular face of the party after the senior leadership, and was in demand from all states to address public meetings.
In the meantime when the Gandhi family members refused to take the post of party president, then on September 25 last year it was decided to elevate Gehlot as the party chief and Pilot to be the Rajasthan Chief Minister. However, rebellion by Gehlot loyalist MLAs thwarted the plan and Gehlot remained the CM.
The tide, however, turned in Pilot’s favour as the rebellion by Gehlot’s loyalist MLAs did not go well with the party’s senior leadership.
Even as he was immersed in the Rajasthan Assembly elections, Pilot also addressed public meetings in the Gurjar-dominated seats of Madhya Pradesh and was in huge demand there for party candidates’ programmes.
Pilot not only focused on his seat but is also making himself available for the party candidates in his state.
When the senior leadership of the party was accused of neglecting and giving up in Rajasthan, Pilot’s pictures started appearing on the posters of the party’s seven guarantees in the state along with Gehlot.
Party sources said that this was done after Gehlot requested the party leadership that a wrong message was going on in the state that the party was not united.
Following the message of Gehlot to the party leadership, several programmes of Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Kharge were scheduled in the desert state and the photograph of Pilot was added to the posters of the party’s guarantees.
The party source further said that a message was also given by Rahul Gandhi that the party has neither ignored nor given up on the desert state and it was united when he posed with Gehlot and Pilot.
The Congress, which had contested the Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh Assembly elections on the face of Kamal Nath and Bhupesh Baghel respectively, has yet not decided its face in Rajasthan while keeping its options open.
After the quitting of young turks like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, R.P.N. Singh, and Sushmita Dev from the Congress, the party is now banking on Pilot, who is immensely popular among the youths, and to preserve him for big battles as well.
The party source said that it was a big reason why he was given a berth in the Congress Working Committee — the party’s highest decision-making body in August this year.
Pilot, who has seen many ups and downs in his over two-decade political career, has now established himself in the political arena and has proven his metal that he is no longer a Gurjar community leader but also a leader of all communities as he is accepted by all communities across the country.