Sporting a Rajasthani saafa, with his right hand raised, the statue of former Union Minister Rajesh Pilot stands tall and is visible from a distance as one enters Dausa. Two decades ago, on June 11, 2000, he had died in a road accident a kilometre away from the spot.
Unable to forget the day, septuagenarian Shambhu Yogi, says most people in Dausa, which is less than 60 km from state capital Jaipur, continue to support the Pilot family. “Rajesh Pilot ji brought Dausa on the national map, he worked very hard for its development. On his death anniversary, Sachin Pilot and other politicians were here last month to pay their respects to him,” he says.
Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan and state Congress President till a week back, Sachin, along with 18 MLAs loyal to him, rebelled against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, pushing the Congress government in the state into a crisis.
Pilot was first elected to the Lok Sabha from Dausa in 2004. Prior to that, his mother Rama Pilot, has been an MP from this Parliamentary constituency. Rajesh Pilot was a five-time MP from Dausa.
Congress workers and former office bearers emphasise that Sachin hasn’t quit Congress and think he may not do so either. But are cut up with how he was treated., given the efforts he put in over the years to revive the party in the state.
At the residence of Dausa MLA Murari Lal Meena, one of the 18 Sachin loyalists, who was served a notice for disqualification by the state Assembly Speaker, the Congress party flag remains hoisted. His home functioned as the party’s office in the city, and a signboard at the gate urges people not to overcrowd, promising he will give everyone a hearing.
Meena has been incommunicado for the past week, and his house and its surroundings appear deserted.
“Despite winning by nearly 51,000 votes, Murari Lal ji wouldn’t be consulted even for the lowest political postings at his own constituency. He couldn’t address people’s grievances because the administration wouldn’t listen to him. He often told us that he would rather resign. All this just because he is a supporter of Sachin Pilot,” said Umashankar Meena, former media in-charge of the Congress in Dausa.
Umashankar is among the 40-odd office-bearers of the party in Dausa who resigned in a show of solidarity with Pilot after he was divested of his position in the state government and the party on July 14. District President Ramjilal Odh too resigned, and in a video uploaded on Facebook, said he was hurt with the “sidelining of a stalwart leader such as Pilot”.
Congress General Secretary in-charge of Rajasthan, Avinash Pandey has dissolved all district and block Congress committees to revamp the party in the state after Pilot was replaced with Govind Singh Dotasra as the state Congress President.
Considered to be a stronghold of the Pilot family, no sooner Sachin was divested of his posts, Congress workers and office-bearers in Dausa tendered resignations en masse, and burnt effigies of Congress leaders including Chief Minister Gehlot.
“We are with Sachin Pilot ji. It’s wrong, the way the party treated him. He worked a lot to build the party here. He wanted to be heard but he wasn’t paid heed to,” said Avdhesh Sharma, former Block President, Dausa City and President, Dausa Bar Association, who also resigned from his posts after Pilot was replaced as party president.
While Sharma thinks Pilot will not quit the party, he certainly believes the Congress will sustain losses given how it handled the situation. Most lower-level functionaries such as Vishram Meena, former Sarpanch of Kalota village, say the Congress swept eastern Rajasthan in the 2018 Assembly elections due to Pilot and his loyalists’ influence.
In Dausa, the Congress had won four of the five seats in the last elections; two of the five legislators – Meena and Bandikui MLA Gajraj Khatana – have now sided with Pilot. Congress veterans such as Ramnath Rajoria, who had contested Assembly elections earlier, said they are waiting for Pilot’s next move before deciding their future course of action.
Dausa and its adjacent districts in eastern Rajasthan have a high percentage of Gujjar and Meena communities in the district population. While Pilot is a Gujjar, the MLAs who back him cut across communities such as Gujjar, Meena, Jats, Brahmins and Rajputs.
“All of us had thought Pilot will be the Chief Minister after Congress won the elections. He worked hard for the party for five years and received support of all communities. He helped us win the bye-elections and Assembly polls. At that time, Ashok Gehlot wasn’t active in the state and was busy working for the party in the Central leadership. We are angry with the manner in which the party treated Pilot. We are waiting for his next course of action, but will support whatever he decides,” says Surendra Gujjar, former Dausa district President of the Youth Congress in Dausa.
To a question whether Sachin Pilot would succeed if he floated his own party or joined the BJP as was being speculated, septuagenarian Yogi, sitting in a corner at Rajesh Pilot’s memorial, says, “Party matters a lot, but people of Dausa will vote for Pilot nevertheless.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines