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5 reasons why Rahul Gandhi picked Ashok Gehlot over Sachin Pilot

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Keeping in mind caste dynamics in Rajasthan and 2019 possibilities, Congress president Rahul Gandhi was forced to deny chief ministership to Sachin Pilot.

New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi blended experience with youth in appointing Ashok Gehlot the Rajasthan Chief Minister and Sachin Pilot his deputy Friday, but it was not as per the original script.

The three-day long suspense and drama preceding the announcement of their appointment was testimony to the pulls and pressures that forced Gandhi to hand over the reins of the desert state to Gehlot.

ThePrint takes a look the five reasons that denied chief ministership to Pilot, who had left his family in Delhi to sweat it out on the roads for five years to revive the party in Rajasthan.

Caste dynamics

The blend of experience and youth was forced by the tricky caste dynamics in the state. Gehlot is a Mali by caste, which helps the Congress to steer clear of the antagonism that different caste groups share in Rajasthan — although Jats nurse a grudge against him for denying chief ministership to one of their own in the past.

The state, in any case, is known for frequent face-offs between Gurjars and Meenas, Jats and Rajputs, and Dalits and upper castes. Pilot, a Gurjar leader, did make successful outreaches to Meenas and the antagonism between the two groups wasn’t visible, at least overtly, in this election. But Gehlot’s sympathisers in the Congress used this caste fault line to undermine Pilot’s prospects to become the chief minister.

Also read: Ashok Gehlot is Congress pick for Rajasthan CM, Sachin Pilot to be his deputy

Resourceful experience

Nobody in the party would speak about it openly, but there was a consensus that the veterans — Gehlot in Rajasthan and Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh — were better-equipped with their existing networks to generate resources for the party. Young leaders haven’t shown much enterprise on this count and nobody expected them to hit the ground running. Ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha elections, the ability for resource-mobilisation was one of the major criteria for a party that has been starved of funds since it lost power at the Centre in 2014.

Loyalists’ majority

Both the Congress veterans managed to get party tickets for most of their loyalists in the assembly elections. If Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh got most tickets for their loyalists in Madhya Pradesh, it was Gehlot whose supporters got the lion’s share in Rajasthan during the ticket distribution process. So when the party high command sent observers to get feedback from newly elected party legislators, their preference was anybody’s guess.


Gandhi might have been vocal about changing the “system” in the past but he was soon to learn his lessons for antagonising and alienating party veterans. When it came to choosing the chief ministers, all veterans weighed in favour of their contemporaries. Given how they had helped him to bring a turnaround in the party’s electoral fortune, and how he needed their wholehearted support in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections, Gandhi was forced to teach Leo Tolstoy’s wisdom to his young, ambitious colleagues: “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”

Short-term arrangement

Many Congress leaders are of the view that the current arrangement may not be a long-term one. A section of them had strong reservations about any young leader being made a chief minister at this stage.

They believe that if Gandhi becomes the Prime Minister in 2019, he would bring some of these veterans to the Centre and elevate their young understudies. But if the Congress doesn’t come to power at the Centre the next year, the wait may get much longer for the so-called young Turks.

Also read: Sachin Pilot, the BBC intern who joked about joining the BJP


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  1. There is only ONE reason. Lok Sabha elections in May 2019. Little time left to steamroll the campaign. A seasoned and “experienced” CM can make all the difference, considering that the only other state available is Karnataka, where Congress is ruling only in name but JD(S) holds the reins. (same logic for MP too).

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