New Delhi/Jaipur, Oct 3: After a series of electoral setback this is now a season of appreciation for political wisdom of the Congress leadership.
This is precisely the point – political analysts and long time observers of Rajasthan Congress suggest when it comes to party president Rahul Gandhi’s “well-calculated game” to keep Ashok Gehlot away from the voters in the poll-bound state.
“This is Rahul Gandhi’s time of efficient electoral management and social engineering. It can be a master stroke that while Sachin Pilot, a Gujjar, has been made the face of the party as the Pradesh Congress president and at the same time former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has been kept away from voters.
Gehlot had antagonised Jats – a politically hyper sensitive community which can influence at least 55 seats,” a key Congress strategist told UNI here.
Agreeing with him a party insider says making Pilot the new Pradesh Congress president was actually out of a political compulsion for Gandhi "and not just love for Sachin" as there were clear suggestions and advise from ground zero – at least from 11 Jat dominated districts -- that Gehlot should be kept away from the electorate.
These districts are Sikar, Jhunjhunu, Bikaner, Choru, Ganganagar, Nagor, Jodhpur, Pali, Barmer, Bharatpur and Jaisalmer. Sources say during his tenure as Chief Minister Gehlot - between 2008 and 2013 - had actually provoked Jats when he could not come to the rescue of a Jat leader in an incident involving a Jat woman. “The incident was said to have been stage managed or used to defame the Jat community and a young Jat leader. The Chief Minister Gehlot could have done his part. He looked the other way,” a source said.
In 1998 also, Congress leader and Jat strongman Paras Ram Maderna-a strong contender for the top job (Chief Minister) lost the race to Ashok Gehlot.It was on this backdrop in 2013 too – the Jats overwhelmingly had deserted the Congress and shifted their alliance enmasse to the BJP. Jats have at least 35 legislators and altogether leave influence in 20 others, sources said.
“The BJP’s success in winning record 163 seats in 2013 and reducing Congress strength to all time low 21 in 200-member House has lot to do with the Jat anguish and Mr Gehlot is held responsible for the same,” the source said adding “Thank God, the Congress high command took the right message and has thus kept Mr Gehlot away from Rajasthan politics”.
In effect, Jats have harboured complaints that though they were the single largest population among the farming community, any leader from that community was never considered for the top slot.However, there is no denying that Mr Gehlot is a stalwart among Congressmen in today’s politics and there are large number of pro-Congress voters who would prefer Mr Gehlot and not Mr Sachin Pilot.
Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot, son of Late dynamic leader Rajesh Pilot, is a Gujjar and especially in eastern Rajasthan, a large number of voters would have their own grudge against the Gujjar community. However, there is a section even among Jats who say Sachin Pilot has over the years “well kept himself away from caste politics” and even a senior Jat leader from Bharatpur Vishvendra Singh told UNI: “Sachin is not a casteist”.
Moreover, there is a political and demographic peculiarity vis-a-vis population of Jats and Gujjars in Rajasthan. There are many constituencies – especially the Jat dominated ones where Gujjars do not matter much. “So, essentially the Gujjar-Jat confrontation cannot harm Congress electoral prospects per se,” said a key party leader.
Another analyst who understands Jat politics of Rajasthan pretty well tried to sum up the socio-political paradox very well. “There are three kinds of Jats in the political sense in Rajasthan. The one in eastern Rajasthan have different equations with groups like Gujjars while Jats in Jodhpur region and Mewar see things from different perspective. A good calculation has been done by Congress election managers this time and the decision to keep Gehlot away from Jat voters should fetch in rich dividends,” the analyst said.