Sachin Pilot's mission impossible: Reviving Cong in Rajasthan
As Sachin campaigns in the remaining five constituencies of the state, the voting trend in Ajmer will weigh heavily on his mind, as will the feedback from party workers from other constituencies
Being Sachin Pilot is not easy these days. It would not be for anyone in his shoes.
All of 36 and assigned to rejuvenate a moribund Congress in the desert state of Rajasthan, he has to face challenges which his Wharton school education probably never prepared him for.
His new responsibility comes on the back of the crushing defeat of the party in the assembly polls. With barely months left for the parliamentary polls, his first job was to energise a faction-ridden, demoralised party organisation and make it battle-ready.
Voting for most of the seats in the state is over now- only five seats of the total 25 are still to vote - and the jury will soon be out on his success in the new role as Pradesh Congress Committee chief.
If the Congress puts up a poor performance, he can perhaps escape the blame by citing the paucity of time he was given to get the party in order. However, if he loses his own seat Ajmer, this will be a huge embarrassment for him. And the signs from the home seat are not too encouraging. Burdened with managing the party's campaigning in the state, he failed to devote enough time to Ajmer. His challenger is a Jat heavyweight and also a minister in the BJP state government; and there's an anti-Congress wave to deal with.
What will be particularly worrisome for him is the heavy turnout of voters this time. In 2009, the turnout in the state was 53.07 percent; it has been a massive 16.77 percent jump this time at 69.84 percent. The Congress camp is not sure which way the new votes are likely to go. The sharp polarization of caste votes in the constituency has left them confused further. To make matters worse, the minority and Dalit pockets registered low voting on the polling day. Even in the Gujjar dominated areas, the percentage of polling was low compared to Jat populated areas.
As Sachin campaigns in the remaining five constituencies of the state, the voting trend in Ajmer will weigh heavily on his mind, as will the feedback from party workers from other constituencies. They speak of a Modi wave and he dismisses it quickly. “Koi hawa nahin hai. Sab BJP ki bakwas hai...The high polling will go in favour of the Congress as the people are going to explode the Modi myth. The Congress will repeat its 2009 performance.” This is what he has been repeating in all his campaign meetings too.
In a brief chat with Firstpost, Sachin sounded more realistic in his assessment of the situation. To a question on whether he is positive about the the Congress' performance, he said, "I would not say we will get overwhelming success, but the results will be better than expected." Asked whether this did not amount to acceptance of defeat, he added, "I am being truthful and reasonable (in my assessment)."
Now, coming back to the original point, how do the party leaders judge his performance?
“The assembly election brought startling results for the Congress. The party could not win a single Scheduled Caste reserved seat and ended up with just three out of the 24 ST seats. There wasn't a single Muslim winner - which happened for the first time since 1952. The party had fielded 16 Muslims and not even one could win. The BJP had fielded three and two of them won. Thus the Congress is in a shambles. Rebuilding it in a short period is certainly a Herculean task. Sachin has not been able to do so, but his constraints and limitations need to be understood,” said Sooraj Khatri, PCC secretary.
Sachin concurs. "I had barely three months. The first thing that I did was to rekindle hope among the cadre. Their morale was low and I tried to build it gradually. Then we decided to introduce some new faces. The element of youth was the prime consideration, but we chose to go with the old guard where there was no option." He has not even been able to visit the 33 districts of the state after taking over, say party insiders.
And what happens if he fails? Congress tradition dictates that the leader has to resign if he fails to deliver the goods. Will he be treated with kid gloves or will he be divested of his current responsibility? Sachin seems to have no answer to that: "Let the results come first. In politics you must know how to cross the bridge," he says.
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