‘Pilot had not been able to take along members from the Gurjar community’.
New Delhi: One of the main reasons behind the Congress not accepting Sachin Pilot’s list of demands and letting him go was the feedback that it got from the influential Gurjar community of Rajasthan, to which Pilot belongs,which went that the community had stopped treating him as their leader in the desert state.
This was in sharp contrast to the love for Pilot which the community members had shown post the 2018 Rajasthan Assembly election results, when the Gurjar leaders and party workers had congregated at the Congress office in Jaipur in huge numbers and created a ruckus all across the state demanding Pilot be made the Chief Minister.
This vociferous pressure from the community, even as Pilot himself maintained a studied silence, had forced the Congress leadership, led by Rahul Gandhi, to give two important posts to Pilot—that of the deputy Chief Minister alongwith multiple ministries and also allow him to stay on as the state Congress chief.
The Gurjars, as per unofficial and rough estimates, account for anything between 7-10 % of the state’s population, though the community leaders state that it is around 13%. They play a key role in determining who will become the MLA in at least 50 of the 294 Assembly seats in the state.
The Sunday Guardian spoke to multiple people, including representatives of the Gurjar community and former close associates of Rajesh Pilot, father of Sachin Pilot, with the intention to gather the reason behind the muted response.
Retired professor Prem Verma, who served as an OSD to Rajesh Pilot when he was a telecom minister at the Centre from 1991-1993, told The Sunday Guardian that Sachin Pilot was less popular as compared to father.
“During Rajeshji’s time, there was no Gurjar leader and through his hard work and his ability to reach out to every common man, he was able to create a strong impression in the minds of not just the Gurjar, but also made followers in other communities. His working style was very simple and he was very accessible. I believe that Sachin Pilot has some support from thecaste, but it’s pale compared to what his father enjoyed,” Verma told The Sunday Guardian.
According to Shailendra Singh Dhabhai, who is the general secretary of the Gurjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti—a Gurjar pressure group seeking caste-based reservation, headed by Colonel (retired) Kirori Singh Bainsla—the Gurjar community had moved beyond Sachin Pilot (Bidhuri) and his name no longer elicited the kind of affection it used to among the Gurjar household.
“No one came out on the streets in his support when he was removed as thePCC chief. Why? The Gurjars had voted for the Congress because of Pilot; all the 9 BJP Gurjar candidates were defeated since the community voted en-masse for Pilot and the Congress. When he was not made the CM, we strongly registered our anger. However, once he became the deputy CM, he completely distanced himself from the community and their representatives. Last year when the head priest of Devnarayan mandir located at Sawai Bhoj near Asind, whose followers are in lakhs in our community, came to Jaipur to meet Pilot, he was made to wait for 3-4 hours despite taking a prior appointment and even then Pilot gave only 10 minutes to the priest. After he became the deputy CM, he became inaccessible and would not meet the common people. People would come from a long distance to meet him, wait for hours at his residence and he would just interact with them for 10 seconds. All these things have created a rift between him and the community. He spoke in favour of Jat and Meena reservation, but did not speak out in favour of Gurjar reservation,” Dhabhai, who is also a lawyer, said. Vijay Gupta, who was the election agent of Rajesh Pilot nine times and waswith him the day he passed away in a tragic road accident in June 2000, said that Sachin Pilot should have kept “patience”.
“Rajeshji too faced a lot of differences from within the party and he would always take it up within the party forum. I can only say that Sachin Pilot should act in a patient manner,” Gupta said while refusing to add anything else which he attributed to the 25 years of his relationship with the Pilot family. According to another close associate of Rajesh Pilot, Sachin Pilot had allowed his desire for political promotion to overtake his logical thinking. “Jo jaisa karega, waisa bharega (You will reap what you sow). He has been given so much by the Congress in such a short time, he should have acted more sensibly. We do not support such politics where money and not people’s mandate is given importance, Rajeshji would never do such thing,”he said.
Veteran Congress leader Satbir Khatana, who worked very closely with Rajesh Pilot, too, believes that Sachin Pilot has taken a wrong step by moving towardsthe BJP. “Rajesh Pilot would discuss with the community leaders whenever hewas in trouble. Sachin has no connection with anyone,” he said.
The Sunday Guardian sent multiple SMSs to Sachin Pilot for his comment on the story but did not get any response.
The Sunday Guardian also reached out to MLAs Gajraj Khatana and Indraj Gurjar, two of Sachin’s loyalists for their views. While Khatana’s mobile number was switched off, an associate of Gurjar who answered his mobile number said that he was in a meeting with Pilot and will respond soon. However, no response was received. Those close to him affirm that he remains popular across voting groups in Rajasthan, including the Gurjar community, especially the youth.