New Delhi: Sachin Pilot, a member of the Congress party’s young guard, sounds tired on his return to New Delhi from a campaign trip to Ajmer, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stronghold in Rajasthan from where he is seeking re-election to the Lok Sabha.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Five years ago, at the age of 26, Pilot created history by becoming the youngest member of Parliament, elected from home turf Dausa, also in Rajasthan, which his late father Rajesh Pilot represented six times in Parliament.
He has been forced to migrate because Dausa has been designated a reserved seat after delimitation redrew constituency boundaries across the country.
“It is not about more or less difficult,” Pilot, a 2001 MBA from the Wharton School, US, says about contesting the Ajmer seat. “It is a battle of ideologies and not individuals... I am sure we will register a win in Ajmer.”
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After his father died in a car crash in 2000, Sachin’s mother Rama Pilot fought and won a by-election to the Lok Sabha from Dausa before making way for her son in the 2004 general election. He won the seat by a margin of 120,000 votes.
Ajmer, where he has been forced to shift in only his second election, has not been kind to the Congress. Only once in the past 25 years has the constituency sent a Congress candidate to the Lok Sabha.
On unfamiliar ground
Pilot, one of the young poster boys of the Congress along with colleagues such as Rahul Gandhi, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Milind Deora since his joining the party in 2002, may have age in his favour. But he is generally regarded as an outsider in Ajmer, a tag that doesn’t bother him.
“I am proud to be contesting from Ajmer this time,” he says. “This constituency has a mix of both rural and urban (voters) but the issues remain basic. I will definitely improve the lives of people here once I am elected.” The basic issues he is referring to are power, roads and water.
Pilot is facing the BJP’s Kiran Maheshwari, who won the Udaipur Lok Sabha seat in 2004, defeating Congress veteran Girija Vyas.
Unlike Dausa, which is dominated by the Gujjars, a community that Pilot belongs to, Ajmer has a mixed population that includes Jats, Sindhis, upper castes and the so-called other backward classes, or OBCs. The Gujjars, classified among the OBCs, have been demanding the status of a scheduled tribe.
Pilot’s maiden stint in Parliament has not been extraordinary. According to data from PRS Legislative Research, a New Delhi-based independent research organisation, while Pilot’s attendance in Parliament was 82% (compared with the national average of 69%), he asked only one question (national average 169) in the House and participated in 12 debates (national average 30).
“I have had five years in Parliament, which has been a rich and fulfilling experience,” Pilot says. “It has definitely made me more equipped.”
Pilot was instrumental in preparing the initial ground for the Congress’ tie-up with the National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir after the 2008 assembly election—an alliance cemented by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi. Pilot is married to Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference president Omar Abdullah’s sister, Sarah.
He relaxes by “catching up on e-mail, watching movies with family and friends as well as having people over at home”. Pilot’s official website(www.sachinpilot.com) refers to him as a “pro-farmer leader” and “an architect of rural India”.
Does he expect to play a bigger role if the Congress retains power?
“My role is, as it is, quite big,” Pilot says. “Being elected an MP (member of Parliament) at 26 is in itself a major challenge. I feel blessed and humbled that the voters and my party had faith in me and I have been given a chance to speak up for the people.”
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