The ruling Congress in Rajasthan held two 'Kisan Mahapanchayats' on Saturday as part of its farmer outreach and to kick-off its campaign for the four assembly by-polls. Significantly, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot not only spoke from the same platform but also shared the same helicopter as they flew to address the two Mahapanchayats in a bid to present a united face after many months of infighting.
Ever since Pilot rebelled against Gehlot's leadership last July, differences between the two have left the state Congress a fragmented house. Even recently during Rahul Gandhi's trip to Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot was made to come down from the dais at one rally, a move which left the Pilot camp hurt and angry.
However, as the two leaders flew in the same helicopter, the effort was seen as a damage-control exercise to project a united face of the Congress party keeping in view the upcoming by-elections. Rajasthan in-charge Ajay Maken and state Congress president Govind Singh Dotasara also travelled along with Gehlot and Pilot in the same helicopter to give a message of unity. Interestingly, Sachin Pilot has held three separate kisan mahapanchayats over the past few weeks.
The two kisan mahapanchayats on Saturday were held at Dhaneru in Bikaner district and at Matrakundiya village in Chittorgarh district. The four bypolls are scheduled in Sujangarh, Rajsamand, Sahada and Vallabhgarh as their four MLAs have passed away between October 2020 and January 2021.
Addressing the gathering at Dungargarh, Gehlot urged people to vote for the Congress and claimed that huge injustice was being done to farmers. He remarked, "We all know what is happening in the country. Democracy is being destroyed and farmers are being made to sleep outdoors in biting cold. Farmers want the new laws to be repealed but the government is not ready to listen to them. PM Modi had promised to bring 'Achche Din' but people are saying please give back our good old days. These new days have forced farmers to live on the streets."
Similarly, Pilot stressed how the Congress had opposed the farm laws from the very beginning. He asserted, "When farmers are so upset, it's difficult to understand, as Rahul Gandhi ji has asked, as to why the Prime Minister can't repeal the laws. Since farmers are the backbone of the country, why can't the PM talk to them."
However, Pilot also indirectly reminded people of his contribution in reviving the Congress in Rajasthan. He remarked, "When the BJP had formed the last government, we were down to just 21 seats in the assembly. But then we worked together and strengthened our party in the state. We are all united and our Congress party is really strong."
Clearly, before the crucial by-elections in Rajasthan, the Congress is engaged in removing bitterness. But political observers wonder whether the Gehlot-Pilot show of togetherness, including by sharing a helicopter together after almost one and a half years, will last beyond the campaigning for the bypolls.