Sachin Pilot, 38, is considered a rising star in Rajasthan’s political graph. Young, articulate, with a sound political grounding, Sachin is the new hope for the Congress in the desert state.
A close confidante of the Congress scion, Rahul Gandhi, he is expected to infuse new energy into the moribund grand-old party, which faces its worst electoral crisis ever in the desert state.
Sachin’s appointment for the new role came in January 2014, just after Congress suffered the most humiliating defeat in the state’s history in the 2013 Assembly elections.
Sachin was expected to recover some semblance of respect for the party before the 2014 general elections. But got deluged in the Narendra Modi wave. The task of resurrecting Congress in the state seems all the more difficult for Sachin now, as the Congress is losing one election after another in the state.
Beginning with the 2013 Assembly polls where Congress was reduced to just 21, it lost all the 25 Lok Sabha seats as well in May 2014. Although the bypoll in Sept, 2014 brought a little joy to the party as it won three out of the four seats, the panchayat polls in January 2015 again saw the BJP triumphing while the recent civic polls in Nov 14 and Aug 15 further witnessed the Congress’s tumbling graph.
It has not been easy for Sachin. But he was expecting this all along. He has been at it for over a year now and trying hard to get the party workers excited about being in the business of politics.
He knows well there are no guarantees for anything in politics. He says: “You know it is easy to criticise and find faults but when you actually start doing things, it is not an easy job. Sometimes things don’t move and people can really play on you physically, mentally and even emotionally. Then, what keeps one going is the love and affection the people shower on you. Politics is demanding and needs total commitment and passion,” he adds.
“Joining politics was not an emotional decision. I thought over it for three years during which I worked in my father’s constituency and ultimately felt politics was where I belonged,” he says.
In the murky world of politics, Sachin believes one can be honest, have a clean image and still survive in the tough political arena.
Having worked in Dausa and Ajmer constituencies, first along with his father and later nourishing them, Sachin realized early that just being elected from the constituency cannot change things overnight.
Sachin’s lessons political grooming started early. His father Rajesh Pilot was a Rajiv Gandhi confidante and a minister.
But unlike Sachin, who is reserved and often unsmiling, his father Rajesh’s energy was incredible. His rise in the Delhi’s high and mighty political scene in the 1980s is also fascinating stuff.
Rajesh, a farmer came to Delhi first as a milkman to work in his uncle’s dairy. But he was ambitious and pushy. He enrolled in a flying school and joined the Indian Air Force and fought as a squadron leader in 1971 India-Pakistan war.
Some years later in 1979, he succeeded in getting an appointment with Indira Gandhi and urged upon her for a ticket as he wanted to fight elections. Indira impressed with his perseverance, gave him a ticket on a whim. Quitting the Air Force, he first contested from Bharatpur and then Dausa, winning both seats comfortably.
Once before arriving in a village in his constituency, he heard people talking that a pilot has come. He then promptly changed his name from Rajesh Yadav to Rajesh Pilot.
An energetic minister of telecommunications, internal security and environment, Rajesh liked being at the scene of action. He had even thought of contesting for the post of Congress president but died in June 2000 when he was driving a jeep in a rush on his way to Jaipur.
Rajesh’s ability to keep in constant touch with the farmers, his inherent rural background made him loved, admirable and lent him an unusual fighting spirit and strength.
He aligned with the farmers, their needs and did not want any middlemen between him and farmers. His earthiness made him a man of the masses.
But his son Sachin has had a more urbane upbringing. Except for the white, starched hand-spun kurta pyjama Sachin dons, he seems a trifle different from other politicians. When interacting with people in general and the media, he doesn’t put forth his rustic charm or show off his ‘put on earthiness’. He is himself and therein lies his uniqueness.
But Sachin does carry on some of his father’s traditions like holding a morning ‘Open House’ (Jan sunwai) that Rajesh Pilot started where people from Sachin’s constituency turn up with their problems every morning. They can have tea and rest, before meeting him.
The young Pilot also hosts a sumptuous farmer’s lunch’ of sarson ka saag, makki di roti, buttermilk, three kinds of chutney, gur, in the winter sun, another of his father’s tradition.
That a bevy of media persons also attend the kisan lunch is another matter altogether.
But unlike his father, Sachin is not one to play to the gallery or pretend being his father in any way. He does it his own way, mingles, discusses, listens, provides solution but has a certain quiet demeanor that sets him apart from others of his ilk.
In 2009, Sachin during his campaign trail for Ajmer, was more forthright, outspoken and had the all right quotes, and bytes ready. He was 30 then.
Growing older, Sachin, it seems he has mellowed down and become politically wiser too. He now speaks in measured tones especially after the Congress debacle. It seems he has become aware of the fleeting nature of power, accolades and adulation.
His mother Rama Pilot had fought elections till he came off age to take the place of his father. But before it, he had worked in Rajasthan’s hinterland, campaigning for his father and mother.
Sachin says working closely for his parents was different. “Campaigning for myself has been a totally different ballgame. I have understood the rough and tumble and the hard work that goes behind every single vote. I always try to meet as many people as possible in my constituency as I know every vote matters.”
He is married to the beautiful Sara, who is the daughter of former Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and sister of Omar Abdullah and has two sons. He refrains from speaking about his private life and prefers to keep it far from the prying eyes and has so far been successful.
His wife and two young sons aged 7 and 5 stay in Delhi while he toils hard in the desert sun. Sachin is an intensely private person and doesn’t talk much about his personal life.
Perhaps this reserved nature is necessary. As politics make you susceptible to all kinds of jibes and insults.
Even when Pilot married Sara in 2004, his in-laws had quite a few unkind things to say about him, but he simply did not retort. Pilot didn’t say a word against, about, or why his in-laws were doing what they did.
Sachin always feels that both being from a political family, some sparks were bound to happen. But now both the families are happy that they are very happy together. And that’s Period.
Sachin, a Air Force Bal Bharati School, New Delhi alumni and a graduate from St Stephens, did his MBA from Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania. He was working with the General Motors, when he decided to take the plunge in politics.
He became a Lok Sabha MP for the first time in 2004 from Dausa constituency at the age of 26 years, one of the youngest MPs to be elected. Later he contested from Ajmer in 2009 and won against BJP’s leader Kiran Maheswari. He, however, lost the 2014 Ajmer elections to BJP’s Sanwar Lal Jat.
Pilot, was defeated by a margin of 1,71,983 votes. Jat had secured 6,37,874 votes while Pilot 4,65,891 votes.
During the violent Gujjar agitation of 2007, 2008, wherein the Gujjars, who already came under the OBC category) demanded Scheduled Caste status, Sachin became one of the mediators.
He was with his people the Gujjars — when the community erupted in a violent agitation. He held discussions with the then home minister Shivraj Patil, Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi and BJP supremo Rajnath Singh to resolve the issue amicably.
Sachin had then said : “The most disturbing part of the whole agitation was the violence, the fact that hundreds of thousands of people were hassled and many even hurt. The leaders wanted my advice on how the Congress should act… It became a human issue, a social movement, it had nothing to do with politics.”
After delimitation of constituencies, he changed his constituency to Ajmer, which also has a sizeable Jat population.
Sachin has been the union of minister of Information and Communication Technology and union minister of state (Independent charge) Corporate Affairs. His special interests include news and current affairs, international trade and economics, agriculture and rural development and strategic and foreign affairs.
He likes playing cricket, squash and shooting. His favourite pass times include flying light aircrafts, watching movies and plays and travelling.
But what he likes doing most is to keep in touch with his people in the constituency.
Sachin’s trump cards are his personal equation with the people of his constituency. The constituency’s 2.5 lakh first-time voters — nearly 18 per cent of the 14.5 lakh-strong electorate — who had no leanings towards any party, helped him during his first foray into Ajmer in 2009.
“We have direct access to Pilotji, which makes all the difference,” Gopal Bhateshwar, a farmer in Bhamalao, said. “If we have to meet BJP leaders, we have to go through secretaries, PAs, babus….”
Many feel that Sachin’s direct access to Delhi and to Gandhi family make people feel that he may be able to change the face of the constituency he handles.
Since the time he took over in January 2014 as Rajasthan state chief, Sachin has been working relentlessly to get the demoralised party cadres reenergized and get going through the next five years.
Appointed just three months before the general elections, Sachin had an impossible mission to perform against the Narendra Modi wave, to boost the morale of the demoralized workers.
With just 21 seats for Congress out of the 200 assembly seats, the party, which had ruled Rajasthan for most years, seemed out of sync with the public mood. In 2008, Congress had won 96 seats and managed to form the government with the help of BSP MLAs.
‘For Gehlot, 62, the humiliating defeat became hard to explain and seemed a sign that time had come to give way to younger lot. That is when Sachin took over the reins of Congress and paved the way for a generational shift.
Sachin believes the Congress needs to connect with the masses again and that is why now his day begins and ends amidst the people. He says : “The idea is to maintain a tempo, connect with the workers and common man. We have been opposing the BJP government’s many controversial moves like school merger, appointments, power tariff, through dharnas, protests, rallies marches and asking them tough questions.”
According to him, “There are many who do not hankers for posts and just want some respect and a patient hearing but they are willing to give their entire time to the party. Irrespective of the stature of a worker in the party, we need to talk to each and everyone, hear them out and assign them specific duties and make them realize the importance of the responsibility given to them.”
More than a year after he took over, Pilot says he is happy as presently he has no other job but to revive the Congress and it has bestowed him more than his expectations.
He adds: “Being in the national politics and state politics is different but state is a great learning ground.”
Sachin had minor victory first in bypolls last September when it won three seats out of four.
Congress won in three seats and even though the winning margin was not high in Surajgarh (3270 votes), Nasirabad (386 votes), what gladdened the hearts of the party workers was that candidate Bhajanlal in Weir, Bharatpur won by a whopping 25,108 votes and reduced margin in BJP’s win in Kota (south).
Congress had another minor reason to be happy about when in the civic polls in August 2015, the Congress trounced BJP in Jhalawar, Jhalarapatan and Dholpur, all home constituencies of Raje and her son Dushyant Singh.
Pilot said despite misusing government machinery, using muscle power and violating election code of conduct, Congress won as the party was united and contested in full strength.
Sachin had last year vowed not to wear the safa (pagdi- a traditional form of welcome at functions, meetings) till he gets Congress
back on the track in the state.
He had said: “I will not wear a safa nor accept garlands until I get Congress back to power in Rajasthan. It is a commitment I have made and a promise that I will keep.”
For he is of the firm belief that there is no short cuts to success. Till he reaches there, Sachin’s safa ceremony may just have to wait a little longer.