JAIPUR: On the eve of the crucial municipal elections in Rajasthan, political circles are abuzz. The topic of conversation - the conspicuous absence of former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot.
While Pilot is busy campaigning in Jyotiraditya Scindia's bastion in Madhya Pradesh, the former PCC President has been completely ignored in Rajasthan. He is missing from pictures in the party's vision document released recently and even on posters and the publicity material of Congress candidates in Jaipur and other cities of the state.
Although Pilot is expected to campaign in Bihar from October 29 after his assignments in Madhya Pradesh, his loyalists are said to be growing restless as the three-member Committee headed by Ahmed Patel to look into the grievances of the Pilot camp has not even met once in the two months since it was formed in August. In July, Pilot had rebelled against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, but following the intervention of the Congress High Command returned to the party fold.
Even as Pilot is playing his part in the by-polls for the 16 assembly seats in the Gwalior-Chambal region, his supporters are upset that the former Deputy CM is being given no importance in Rajasthan. Pilot campaigned in the Gwalior-Morena areas on Tuesday and Wednesday and is slated to address rallies at Patnasahib and Bankipur in Bihar in the next few days.
But, in his home state Pilot has no role to play in the municipal elections in the three major cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur and Kota. For the elections on October 29, the Congress and the BJP are both trying to put their best foot forward.
In the Congress manifesto, from which Pilot is missing, CM Ashok Gehlot, his urban development minister Shanti Dhariwal and new PCC chief Govind Singh Dotasara are shown quite prominently. When transport minister Pratap Khachriyawas was asked about this, he argued that "Pilot is neither the deputy CM nor the PCC chief now. So why should his pictures be put on the brochure."
Interestingly, in all the three cities going to the polls, it is Gehlot loyalists who are playing key roles.
While in Jaipur, its transport minister Pratap Khachriyawas and party chief whip Mahesh Joshi who are calling the shots, in Kota it is Shanti Dhariwal and in Jodhpur it is the CM's son Vaibhav Gehlot who is managing Congress efforts. In the CM's home city, over 50% tickets have been given to women candidates in a new experiment by the Congress.
Clearly, over two months since he called off his rebellion, former deputy CM Sachin Pilot still remains sidelined in Rajasthan.
With the three-member committee consisting of Ahmed Patel, KC Venugopal and the party's state in-charge Ajay Maken having hardly met, chances of addressing the grievances of Pilot and his camp at an early date remain rather remote. So, even as Pilot is sent as a 'star campaigner' to MP and Bihar, his loyalists in Rajasthan remain sullen and restless on the eve of a significant round of municipal elections in the state.