The results of the by polls in Rajasthan are out. The by polls to two Lok Sabha constituencies of Ajmer and Alwar and one Vidhan Sabha constituency of Mandalgarh had been held on January 29. The by polls were necessitated by the death of the sitting MPs Sanwarlal Jat from Ajmer and Mahant Chandnath from Alwar and sitting MLA Kirti Kumari from Mandalgarh. The Congress party has emerged victorious on all the seats. The by poll results are a shot in the arm for the Congress party. In a tweet, Rahul Gandhi described the Congress victory as “a rejection of the BJP by the people of Rajasthan”.
Well done Rajasthan Congress! Proud of each and every one of you. This is a rejection of the BJP by the people of Rajasthan.#RajasthanByPolls
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) February 1, 2018
While the sycophants in the Congress party, and there are many of this tribe in the party, will present it as the victory of the stupendous and dynamic leadership of the new party president Rahul Gandhi, the reality is far from true. If there is one person who deserves all the credit, it’s Sachin Pilot.
It is not that the BJP is free of all flaws. In the case of Rajasthan, it is fairly well-known that everything is not hunky dory for the party in the state. The BJP is likely to face a tough fight from the Congress party in the Rajasthan state assembly election scheduled to be held later this year.
Under the leadership of the young Sachin Pilot who is the President of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee, the party seems to be posing a tough challenge for the BJP. There have been allegations of the high-handed style of function of Vasundhara Raje by many people. If there is dissatisfaction among many people in Rajasthan, then the BJP would have to assuage the dissatisfaction of the people of Rajasthan before the state election later this year. The anti-incumbency factor against the Vasundhara Raje Government seems to have helped the Congress and it has capitalized on it under the able leadership of Sachin Pilot.
The victory in the by polls in Rajasthan is largely due to the work of Sachin Pilot on the ground rather than an endorsement of Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.
Although, the Congress party may not officially declare a Chief Ministerial candidate in order to not antagonize senior leader Ashok Gehlot, it seems likely that Rahul Gandhi may repose his faith in the leadership of Sachin Pilot, especially after the by poll results. In the past, Gehlot has already tried to make light of the leadership of Sachin Pilot in the state. Sachin Pilot is 40 years old and given the fact that he is close to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, the by poll result has ensured that his claim for the chief ministership is buttressed. This would in all likelihood alarm Ashok Gehlot. In 1954, 38-year-old Mohanlal Sukhadia had become the Chief Minister. He continued to serve as the Chief Minister of Rajasthan for 17 years. This precedent in Rajasthan should help sachin Pilot’s cause.
Although, the loss in the by polls is a setback to the BJP, all cannot be said to be lost for the party in Rajasthan. It is early 2018 and there are around 9 months for the party to take remedial measures to salvage the situation in Rajasthan. It must be remembered that in 2008, when the BJP had lost the Vidhan Sabha election in the state, Congress party on its own had managed to secure 96 seats, 4 short of a simple majority in the state and the BJP had won 78 seats.
However, if the trend as seen in the by polls were to continue till the Vidhan Sabha election later this year then the Congress could end up with close to 150 seats, which would be almost a repeat of its performance in the 1998 Vidhan Sabha election. If the BJP does manage to redeem the situation in the state even now, then it would have to repeat its performance of the 1993 Vidhan Sabha election when it had bucked the anti-incumbency factor under Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.
Although, the election then was held in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, Vasundhara Raje could take a leaf out of Shekhawat’s book to beat the anti-incumbency by reaching out directly to the people and leaving the common people of the state to realize that their Chief Minister is not royalty but one of them. To supplement it, she should reach out to all the castes and groups in the state without any hesitation. And to ensure that law-breakers will be dealt with sternly by the state machinery. It is said that a week is a long time in politics.
But having said all of that, the challenge of Sachin Pilot is real. BJP should thank Pilot for at least giving them a rude shock and defining how their campaign strategy should be.