As the Congress leadership in Delhi debated on a new chief minister for Rajasthan, supporters of state Congress chief Sachin Pilot hit the streets in different parts of the state, stoning buses at some places, while staging a show of strength to mount pressure. While supporters of both Pilot and former CM Ashok Gehlot indulged in a contest of sloganeering outside the party office in Jaipur, Pilot’s supporters warned that if a youth is not made CM, a youth cannot be Prime Minister next year either.
According to police, groups of people tried to stop traffic at places in Dausa, Ajmer and Karauli districts. Protesters blocked the Jaipur-Agra highway in Dausa, burning tyres. There was similar disruption on the Jaipur-Ajmer highway, and attempts to block traffic on other roads. In most cases, the protesters were from Pilot’s Gujjar community, the police said.
The protests prompted Pilot to issue an appeal on Twitter. “I request all workers to maintain peace and discipline,” he wrote in Hindi. “I completely trust the party’s high command,” he said, adding that he will welcome any decision taken by party leaders Rahul and Sonia Gandhi. “It is the responsibility of committed workers to maintain the party’s dignity,” he tweeted.
In Jaipur, supporters of both Pilot and Gehlot gathered outside their homes. “Looking at the number of supporters, additional policemen have been deployed,” Additional Police Commissioner Nitindeep Bluggan said.
J D Gujjar, 27, from Hindaun City, was camping outside Pilot’s residence since morning. “It is not acceptable to us if someone reaps the reward of someone else’s hard work. We believe in Pilot sahab. He transmitted a new energy across youths of the state,” he said.
Several unemployed youths were also camping outside Pilot’s residence. Arun Meena from Jalore said, “I observed Gehlotji. Eight or nine thousands jobs were stuck in his government. Then we gave a chance to Vasundhara Raje and all jobs under her government were stuck in courts. What does the Gandhi family know about our concerns?”
Tara Singh Yadav, 25, from Dausa, and NSUI’s district vice-president, said he is also associated with Shiskha Mitra Berozgar Sangathan. “We want a youth leader. Rahul Gandhi talks of youths, so if we don’t get a youth as CM, then India will not get a youth as PM,” he said.
As minor instances of violence were reported, Singh and other youths gathered outside Pilot’s residence claimed that “it is Gehlot’s people who are fanning the flames”. As passions ran high, Suresh Sharma from Bassi said, “I will sleep on the roads. I won’t leave till his name is announced.”
Outside the state party office, party general secretary Jagdish Raj said, “Pilot has been state president for five years. The youths get a little emotional. But people also remember the work done by Gehlot during his tenure. We will all honour the party high command’s decision.”
Meanwhile, a hoarding installed by a party leader inside Gehlot’s house said, “Main thasun duur nahin (I’m not far from you)” to negate the Pilot camp’s claims.
Mukesh Kumar Saini, 32, from Deedwana, said, “When the high command has decided that Gehlot should be CM, then why are his (Pilot’s) supporters blocking the roads? If Pilot wants to, he can control his supporters.”
Shrawan Kumar, 80, from Bundi said, “The soul of Rajasthan wants Gehlot to be CM again, because the welfare work he did was halved by the Raje government. Moreover, Pilot is not as experienced.”
On the party’s loss under Gehlot in 2013 Assembly elections, Dr Kunji Lal Meena, 50, from Sawai Madhopur, and who also leads an SC, ST, OBC and Minority Mahasangh, said, “There was a Modi wave then. We also got zero in 2014 Lok Sabha elections (when Pilot was state president). Gehlot is the heartbeat of the state. There is no other leader who can take all communities together.”
Lekhraj Singh, 38, from Lalsot, said, “Gehlot takes all 36 communities together. But Pilot has given all the important positions in Dausa to Gujjars. He is promoting casteism.”