The Rajasthan elections 2018 are going to be a litmus test for the BJP led National Democratic Alliance at the center for 2019. The BJP formed the government in the 2013 elections with a stunning tally of 163 seats in the 200 member Rajasthan Assembly. This was naturally followed by a victory in all 25 Lok Sabha seats thereby making the state their stronghold. The subsequent road ahead for Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia however, has not been a smooth one. From getting embroiled in Lalit Modi controversy, to facing rebellion from her party colleagues, Raje has had quite an eventful tenure so far. The state of Rajasthan has a reputation for having cyclical power dynamics. Historically, Congress and BJP have been in power for alternate terms. All interested parties are therefore well aware that the outcomes for this key state are unpredictable.
Defying all expectations, Congress put up a heartening show in Gujarat. Their leadership will now be making every attempt to breach the barriers in the neighboring state as well. The elections will also be a test for the newly appointed Congress President Rahul Gandhi who has assured the electorate that the efforts in the state will be guided by a ‘collective leadership’.
All you need to know about Sachin Pilot:
The man at the helm of affairs in the Congress is Sachin Pilot. A second-generation leader who was a part of the UPA government as the Minister for Corporate Affairs, representing the constituency of Ajmer. He is amongst the new age politicians of the party with a proven administrative track record. To join politics, Pilot, an astute management graduate, gave up a chance to make it big in the corporate world. Pilot’s foray into public life was inspired by his father, the late Rajesh Pilot. During his tenure as a Member of Parliament, Pilot worked extensively to set up the Citizens’ Alliance against Malnutrition, an advocacy group for eradicating hunger and severe nutritional deficiency in children in India. A dignified speaker, he has managed to strongly pronounce the stance of the party at a national level.Sachin Pilot is an articulate leader who can turn the tide for the Congress in Rajasthan.
Will Sachin Pilot play a prominent role in Rajasthan Elections 2018?:
The Sachin Pilot led team has started an extensive outreach campaign with hopes of tapping the pulse of the rural regions. The aim as stated by him is to run an “affirmative and positive” campaign to confront the Bharatiya Janata Party and be a viable alternative to the voters in the state. Congress put up a good show in the bye-elections to the Zilla Parishad, Panchayat Samitis, and Municipal Councils and that has been a very encouraging sign for the cadres. Two Lok Sabha seats and one assembly seat are also in the fray for by-elections which will take place on January 29, 2018. Star campaigners from Congress also include the former Chief Minister of the state Ashok Ghelot, general secretary C.P. Joshi amongst others. Rahul Gandhi has opted to sit on the sidelines for the upcoming by-elections.
The two Lok Sabha seats of Ajmer and Alwar are going for by-polls owing to the demise of the sitting Bharatiya Janta Party MPs – Sanawar Lal Jat (Ajmer) and Mahant Chandnath (Alwar). Interestingly, Jat defeated Pilot by 170,000 votes in the 2014 General Elections. Chandnath had defeated Congress leader Jitendra Singh by 284,000 votes. The by-elections are a prestige battle for the Congress and the fate of these two constituencies will set the tone for the assembly elections that will follow.
Can Sachin Pilot lead the Congress to a victory in Rajasthan Elections 2018?:
Congress is optimistic about its chances and the functionaries have been launching scathing attacks on the incumbent Raje government. The state ranks second in human trafficking and third in cases of rape and there seem to be no visible actions to improve the state’s rank on key human index parameters. The state also faced a crisis on the agrarian front with disgruntled farmers launching protests and seeking a loan waiver from the government. Kicking off its electoral campaign, Congress has opted to go for a unique approach and is coming up with constituency specific manifestoes.
The infamous Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill tabled in the assembly last year created an uproar. The bill sought to protect serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants from being investigated for on-duty actions and prosecution. The bill also proposed barring the media from reporting on allegations against them without the government’s prior sanction. The bill was vehemently opposed from all quarters for being a threat to the right to freedom of speech and expression. Pilot was amongst the many who were detained in the aftermath thereby making this an extremely contentious issue during the run-up to the elections.
Sachin Pilot is going to be a key figure for the aspirations of the Congress in Rajasthan. This is evident from the fact that his name was taken out of consideration to contest the Ajmer seat, to focus instead on the state-wide campaign.
However, Congress faces an uphill task as far as the leadership is concerned, for there is a chance of infighting within the ranks. Keeping the convention of not naming a chief ministerial candidate in mind, there’s no clarity from the party high command on who will be the CM face in the state. Rumors are rife that Sachin Pilot is being readied for the post. However, the faction supporting Ashok Ghelot will be making all-out attempts to stake a claim on the post for the third time. Naming a chief ministerial candidate had made a significant impact on the Congress’s case in Punjab. It remains to be seen if the same line of logic is replicated in Rajasthan.
The state of Rajasthan is crucial from the electoral gains point of view. The Congress will be taking all measures to make the most of the bipolarity of electorate. Though there has been no clarity as to who will be the CM face, it will be interesting to see if a second-generation youth leader like Pilot is allowed to take center stage.