Sachin Pilot has finally declared war on the Congress. This was long waiting to happen, ever since the Congress top command chose veteran leader Ashok Gehlot over him as Rajasthan chief minister after the December 2018 assembly election. Pilot made no bones about his resentment or of being short-changed. Since then, he has done precious little to cement his position as a politician or administrator, sulking all the time, targeting Gehlot and turning into a rebel without a cause.
Sachin Pilot should have left the Congress long ago — for his long-term political growth —, not because of his rivalry with Gehlot, but because of the top leadership of the Congress which is selfish, directionless, insecure and over-controlling.
Chose the wrong target
By making Gehlot his central target, Sachin Pilot risks coming across as being petulant, over-ambitious and narrow-visioned. Instead, had he decided to question his party’s leadership for its ineptness, and reluctance to allow young and capable regional leaders to grow, Pilot would have shown courage and conviction, rare in a party where everybody competes to display their loyalties to the Gandhis. Pilot’s revolt should have been for principles, and not for power.
Sachin Pilot — a second generation, committed Congress leader who is a dynast, but has not taken his entitlement for granted — had all that it takes to set an example. Unfortunately, the young leader ended up squandering that chance, and now appears to be someone who is only interested in the CM’s chair. In politics, ambition is natural, important and fair. However, in his obvious quest for power, Pilot has lost sight of the all-important optics and the bigger picture of building a lasting legacy as a politician.
The grounded, hard-working dynast
Sachin Pilot is no regular dynast. His entry in politics and rise at a young age may have been made easier because of his last name and lineage, but he hasn’t been the typical, let-me-take-it-easy, Lutyens’ Delhi entitled politician.
The 42-year-old has worked hard, toiled on the ground and not been afraid to immerse himself in the grime of grassroot politics. Not even his biggest detractors would deny how hard he had worked in Rajasthan, shifting his base to the state and nurturing the party there. Jolted by his own electoral loss in 2014, Pilot took nothing for granted, turning into every bit the rooted, committed politician he is today.
Given his hardwork and relentless statewide campaign ahead of the 2018 assembly election, it was only natural for Pilot to feel disappointed when Gehlot was made the CM. The problem, however, is how he allowed himself to get completely consumed by the turf war with Gehlot.
The futile years
Sachin Pilot’s anger and energies since the 2018 assembly election win have been completely misplaced. Gehlot isn’t his enemy, the Congress culture is. The internal war in Rajasthan is but a manifestation of the rot in the Congress party.
Ashok Gehlot is a seasoned, well-respected politician with a very strong hold over the party organisation in Rajasthan. He was not an unlikely, or questionable choice as the CM. However, the Congress, especially then party president Rahul Gandhi, could have taken a leap of faith and chosen youth and energy over age and experience. Many, in fact, felt the decision was unfair to Pilot.
But once the call was taken and a beaming Sachin Pilot stood next to Rahul Gandhi and Gehlot to show all was well, the Rajasthan deputy CM’s trajectory could have been different. Sachin hasn’t really been able to damage Gehlot, neither politically nor in terms of his image. To bolster his slim majority, Gehlot won over six MLAs from the Bahujan Samaj Party, further strengthening himself politically. Administratively, the death of kids at a Kota hospital did dent his image, but his seemingly competent handling of the Covid crisis has made up for any other lapses in his 18-month-old government. Of course, Gehlot has played every bit the cussed leader too, cornering Pilot time and again and barely giving him any breathing space.
But, what does Sachin Pilot has to show for himself, except for stepped-up intra-party bickering? He hasn’t shone as an administrator or done much to further strengthen his political base.
Given the immediate trigger of Pilot’s revolt is the notice that has also been sent to the chief minister and others by the Rajasthan Police’s Special Operation Group in connection with the arrest of two BJP leaders for their alleged attempt to bring down the Gehlot government, the desert drama only resembles a family soap opera.
The rot in the Congress starts from the top, and runs deep, and that is what Sachin Pilot should have rebelled against. Pilot should have quit the Congress because there is no real future for young, capable leaders as long as the Gandhi family feels threatened by them. Pilot should have moved on because the party’s leadership cannot ensure electoral wins and does not quite care till it continues to call the shots. He should have found a new home for himself because everybody, including the Congress’ voter, feels irked by the self-absorbed, crabs-in-a-barrel culture of the party.
Whatever trajectory his political career takes henceforth — given his capabilities and hardwork this is likely to be an upward one — Sachin Pilot has lost that one golden chance of making a bold, much-needed statement.
Views are personal.