It is a hot afternoon. The villagers of Piplaj gather at the community centre for a meeting. It is that season when local legislators and parliamentarians are no longer a rare sight. Villagers at this meeting, however, cannot say the same about sitting MP Sachin Pilot, for whom they are waiting impatiently.
For the young bashful boys of the locality, Pilot ‘looks like a hero’, while the women adore the ‘rising star.’ The men, pressured by all the visiting political parties to take sides, too, are convinced that Pilot has delivered beyond expectations. “He is not among those leaders who do not come back after winning. He might not have visited our village but he regularly frequented the constituency in the past five years,” defends Bharu Ram.
Pilot, clad in a crisp white kurta pyjama and a red tilak on his forehead, sprints up to the stage and with a practiced hand ties a blue leheriya safa (turban) in flat 15 seconds. Former Kekri legislator Raghu Sharma tells the gathering how all the previous BJP MPs did nothing for them but Pilot brought a welcome change in Ajmer.
With three more public meetings to go, the podium is left for Pilot soon. He tells them that he seeks votes on the basis of his work — 253 government schools now in Ajmer, 50,000 children get free computer education, a new central university, a new airport, 42 new trains. He mocks the BJP for treating the poor badly and reminds them of the Gurjar-Meena clashes during Vasundhara Raje’s previous tenure. “When they first said they would give free chai at their chai pe charcha, I was happy. But then I got to know that they went from door to door and took Rs 100, saying ek vote ek note. They offered tea for Rs 5 and took away Rs 100,” he said.
He makes a dash back to his SUV, stopping shortly to pay his obeisance at a small temple right next to the stage. Later, he stops for a quick lunch break. He sits down on the floor along with party workers and villagers and polishes off a tweaked traditional meal of salad, fried rice, dal bati and laddoos.
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Back in his car, Pilot juggles between interviews to journalists, meetings with local sarpanches and party workers, discussing the next day’s rally in colleague C P Joshi’s constituency. He also plans to shift his focus on Dausa, the seat held by his father and in 2004 by him, soon after the April 17 polls.
Ask him about the recent defeat in the assembly elections and he smirks, “It is long behind us. You watch out. The Congress will do much better than what the opinion polls have to predict.”
Pilot is, no doubt, the rising star but this time he is pitted against a formidable candidate, Sanwar Lal Jat, a minister in Raje’s cabinet. This is Pilot’s third election, the second from this constituency. Even as he faces anti-incumbency, his elevation in the party recently, gives Ajmer hopes of producing the state’s future chief minister. Though that might be quite some time away, Ajmer will let its verdict on the past five years known to Pilot soon.