JAIPUR: Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot's birthday celebrations on Saturday turned into Congress's show of strength as workers and leaders thronged the party headquarters here, while various programmes were organised across the state, signifying a re-galvanising of the party cadre.
Significantly, the massive outpouring of support on Pilot's 42nd birthday comes at a time when the party is going through a rough phase nationally after the Lok Sabha poll debacle.
Amid slogan chanting and flag-waving, Pilot met thousands of workers and leaders standing outside the party office as they greeted him on the occasion.
Pilot began his day with prayers at Govind Dev and Tadkeshwar temples in the city and also received several people at his residence who came to wish him.
"Wish you a very happy Birthday @SachinPilot ji. May you be blessed with good health and happiness always," Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot tweeted.
आज प्रदेश कांग्रेस मुख्यालय पर कांग्रेसजनों एवं कार्यकर्ताओं द्वारा मेरे जन्मदिवस के अवसर पर आयोजित कार्यक्रम में शिरकत कर प्रदेशभर से आये हुए जनप्रतिनिधियों एवं नागरिकों कीं शुभकामनाएं स्वीकार की| pic.twitter.com/wJT1FpGnPR— Sachin Pilot (@SachinPilot) September 7, 2019
Apart from the majority of party MLAs, legislators from the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Bharatiya Tribal Party, as well as Independent lawmakers called on Pilot to greet him at his home and party office on the occasion.
Thousands of workers and common people from various assembly constituencies and tribal areas of the state thronged the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee headquarters to wish Pilot, who stood outside the office for hours receiving them.
Over a dozen ministers, including Raghu Sharma, Pratap Singh Khachariawas, Pramod Jain Bhaya and Master Bhanwar Lal Meghwal, met Pilot and wished him.
"The tens of thousands of people who came today from all parts of the state to wish Mr Pilot on his birthday -- shows the connect he has developed with the ordinary Congress workers in Rajasthan. This is the kind of mass-based leadership the Congress needs, especially in these challenging times," a senior Congress leader said on condition of anonymity.
Blood donation camps, fruit distribution programmes, plantation drives were held across the state to mark Pilot's birthday, party leaders said.
"We collected 115 units of blood in a camp held in Jhotwada here," Sumer Singh, a party leader said.
Party's students wing NSUI and Youth Congress also held similar events.
A senior state Congress leader said social welfare programmes were organised in almost every blocks.
"The enthusiasm was phenomenal as people's support for Mr Pilot and the Congress in these rough times showed that party cadres were fully re-energized to take the battle to the BJP after the Lok Sabha poll defeat," he said.
A Congress worker said this was the first time since the victory in the Assembly polls that such enthusiasm for the party was visible, especially among the youth.
जन्मदिवस की शुभकामनाओं के लिए आप सभी का तहे दिल से धन्यवाद। शुभकामनाएं हमेशा ही मनोबल को ऊँचा करती हैं तथा और अधिक कार्य करने के लिए प्रेरित करती हैं| आप सभी का स्नेह, सहयोग व आशीर्वाद इसी तरह निरंतर मिलता रहेगा, इस अपेक्षा के साथ पुनः कोटि-कोटि आभार| pic.twitter.com/tUV3ujsvb8— Sachin Pilot (@SachinPilot) September 7, 2019
Another worker said he came about 350 km from Sumerpur in Pali district just to meet Pilot and wish him.
A group of workers sloganeering and waving flags at the party office said they set off from Chittor early morning to reach Jaipur to wish the Congress' state unit chief.
Interestingly, the support for Pilot among Congress workers comes at a time when the old guard that backs Gehlot appeared to be having the dominant hand in the party with Sonia Gandhi back in the saddle.
Ashok Tanwar, known to be close to Rahul Gandhi, has already lost out to the Bhupinder Hooda camp, while a battle is on in Madhya Pradesh between the camps of Jyotiraditya Scindia on one hand and Digvijaya Singh and Kamal Nath on the other.
However, Rajasthan's case seems to be a little different as though the old guard prevailed last December and Ashok Gehlot was made Chief Minister with Sachin Pilot his deputy, the latter has a big clout organisationally as he has been the state unit chief for long and built the party from the ground after the massive defeat in the Assembly polls over five years ago.
Pilot was appointed the state unit president in January 2014 and was made the deputy CM when Congress came to power in December last year.