The Pilots of Congress: How rebellion connects two generations in Rajasthan political crisis | India News - Times of India

NEW DELHI: Like father, like son. This is how former Rajasthan deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot’s actions could be aptly described.
The recent political developments in Rajasthan bring to memory the politics of his father, the late Rajesh Pilot, who at one stage had rebelled and planned to contest elections against Sonia Gandhi for the post of Congress president.
For the second time in two years, Sachin Pilot, who was also sacked as president of Rajasthan unit of the Congress along with the deputy CM’s post on July 14, has stood up against his party’s leadership.
On the first occasion, Sachin Pilot had sought to challenge the then Congress president Rahul Gandhi over the appointment of the Rajasthan CM soon after the 2018 state assembly election results were announced in the month of December.
Ever since he was handed over the reins of the Rajasthan Congress in 2014, Sachin Pilot had tirelessly worked for rejuvenating the party in the state.
He held endless meetings and toured extensively in a bid to motivate the party workers while Gehlot devoted more time with Rahul Gandhi in Delhi.
But when the time came to hand over the fruits of labour to Pilot, the Congress leadership dithered between his name and that of Gehlot.
This irked Pilot and his supporters alike.
As Pilot laid claim to the top job, the deadlock over the declaration of the CM’s name continued for a couple of days. The Congress high command deliberated upon choosing either him or Ashok Gehlot for heading the next government in the state.
Meanwhile, when a rumour spread that the top Congress leadership had settled down for Gehlot’s name, the supporters of Sachin Pilot held violent protests in Dausa, Ajmer and Karauli districts of Rajasthan.
The protesters belonged mostly to the Gujjar community, to which Sachin Pilot belongs. They blocked roads and burnt tyres demanding appointment of Pilot as the state CM.
However, as fate would finally have it, Gehlot was appointed as the CM and Pilot had to reluctantly accede to the Congress high command’s decision.
Despite being made to hold the twin posts of deputy CM and state Congress president, Sachin Pilot kept sulking.
He is reported to have been denied the ‘courtesy’ of choosing bureaucrats of his choice even in his home district.
There was no love lost between the two top Congress leaders of the state.
Sachin Pilot has rebelled again, this time when Sonia Gandhi is the Congress president. It came after three MLAs considered close to him were booked by the state’s anti-corruption department to investigate allegations of them trying to bribe the Congress legislators to defect.
The trigger point for revolt was reached when even Sachin Pilot was summoned by the police to take part in the probe.
He renewed his demand for handing over the CM’s chair. He and his supporters also skipped the legislator party meeting at Jaipur.
In the latest development, Sachin Pilot, alongwith 18 other MLAs, has been served a disqualification notice by Assembly Speaker CP Joshi.
These MLAs have moved the high court against the notice. The final word is yet to be heard in the ongoing power tussle.
Now, lets rewind and go back in history to see how Sachin Pilot’s rebellious nature mirrors his father Rajesh Pilot, who was a prominent Congress leader.
Born as Rajeshwar Prasad Bidhuri, Sachin Pilot’s father originally hailed from Ghaziabad district in Uttar Pradesh and sold milk in posh localities of Delhi.
Pilot Senior was selected as a pilot in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and rose to become a squadron leader.
Rajesh Pilot resigned from IAF and joined politics in 1979 under the influence of Indira Gandhi. He contested and won his first Lok Sabha election on a Congress ticket from Bharatpur in Rajasthan in 1980. Later he shifted base to Dausa in Rajasthan and contested subsequent Lok Sabha elections from there.
He fought the elections in the name of Rajesh Pilot and became popularly known with this name. Pilot Jr inherited the surname from him.
Rajesh Pilot became a Union minister for the first time in the Rajiv Gandhi government, holding the charge of minister of state for transport.
Known as a man of probity, Rajesh Pilot’s rebellious streak came to the fore when Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister as well as the Congress president from 1991 to 1996.
As home (internal security) minister, he had controversial godman Chandraswami arrested and sent to Tihar jail. The powerful spiritual leader was considered close to Narasimha Rao.
When Sitaram Kesri became the Congress president, Rajesh Pilot contested election for the party’s top post in 1997. However, he lost to Kesri.
In a bid to send a message across that he was against sycophancy, he had prepared himself to contest against Sonia Gandhi who was set to take the baton from Sitaram Kesri.
However, Pilot Senior opted out of the election held in 1998 under pressure from senior party colleagues.
But, by then, he had earned the epithet of an eternal rebel.
He was again planning to contest the next organisational election for the Congress president’s post.
As a preparation, he and another rebel Jitendra Prasada held a massive rally on May 21, 2000 – Rajiv Gandhi’s death anniversary – in Jhansi.
However, that was not to be. Within 20 days of holding the rally, Rajesh Pilot died in a car accident near Jaipur on June 11, 2000.

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