LS Polls: In Rajasthan, resurgent Congress promotes young dynasts
Rahul Singh Shekhawat
Jaipur (Rajasthan): Resurgent Congress wresting power from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2018 Assembly polls in Rajasthan has paved the way for young dynasts to don the mantle of their elders to carry forward their legacy.
Forthcoming Lok Sabha elections are important for sons of two veteran leaders — the incumbent Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, and former Union minister, Jaswant Singh — if these scions of Gehlot and Singh families are able to win their seats it would strengthen the second line of young leaders in the Congress party. But if they lose, the present Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister, Sachin Pilot—son of the late Union minister Rajesh Pilot—would continue to be the only young scion of a political family at the top.
Ashok Gehlot hands over his bastion to son
Vaibhav Gehlot, 39, son of the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot, is all set to make his election debut from Jodhpur against the Union minister of state for agriculture, who is a senior BJP figure, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
Vaibhav’s father, senior Gehlot, during the past 39 years, has won the Jodhpur parliamentary seat five times— in 1980, ’84, ’91, ’96 and ’98— the senior Gehlot has finally handed over his citadel to his son. In the 2018 Assembly elections, Congress won six out of eight seats in Jodhpur constituency, slated to go for polls on April 29.
Soft-spoken, Vaibhav, seems aware of the fact that winning his “debut match” on his father’s political turf won’t be a “cakewalk”, but sounds optimistic about his victory. “I know it’s not going to be that easy, but I am determined to win my maiden battle with the support of my party workers,” he says.
The junior Gehlot says that Congress workers and party leadership have reposed faith in him and he won’t disappoint them.
Vaibhav accused the incumbent Member of Parliament and his opponent, Shekhawat, of not living up to expectations of the people during the past five years. “After winning the election, my first priority will be to expedite the development work in Jodhpur constituency. The present MP couldn’t do much and left the people in lurch,” he claims.
Uphill task for Manvendra
Vaibhav is not the only young Congress leader, who is contesting the Lok Sabha polls. New entrant into Congress, Manvendra Singh—son of the former Union minister and BJP leader, Jaswant Singh— is also in the fray from Barmer-Jaisalmer seat.
Manvendra Singh till date has fought three elections, twice on BJP ticket and once as Congress candidate. He won the Barmer-Jaisalmer parliamentary seat on the BJP ticket in 2004, but in 2009 Lok Sabha polls he was defeated by the Congress candidate, Sona Ram.
Manvendra contested 2013 Assembly polls in Rajasthan again on the BJP ticket and won. However, he left the BJP in October 2018 and joined the Congress party.
Manvendra, contested the 2018 Assembly elections on Congress ticket against the former Rajasthan Chief Minister and senior BJP leader, Vasundhra Raje Scindia, from Jhalrapatan, but he couldn’t win.
This time around he is contesting from Barmer-Jaisalmer Lok Sabha seat again, but as a Congress candidate. He needs to win these elections for establishing himself in the league of second line leaders in Rajasthan Congress.
Manvendra’s father, Jaswant Singh, had quit the BJP in 2014 after party denied him the mandate to contest the Lok Sabha elections. He went on to contest the polls as an independent candidate but couldn’t win Barmer-Jaisalmer seat.
Jaswant Singh, considered to be a close aide of the late Prime Minister, Atal Bihar Vajpayee, fell in the bathroom at his residence on 7 August 2014 and suffered a serious head injury. Since then, he has been in a coma.
Legacy a plus point
Barmer-Jaisalmer was considered to be the fortress of Manvendra’s father, Jaswant Singh, besides Rajput voters, senior Singh enjoyed the support of Muslims and Dalits also.
A senior journalist and political commentator, Narayan Bareth, claims that both, Vaibhav Ghelot and Manvendra Singh, are likely to benefit due to the bequest of their fathers, who have enjoyed the support of people for the past many years.
He says if Vaibhav can tread on his father’s path, he could emerge as a strong leader in the second line of the Congress party.
According to Bareth, Manvendra Singh, has to win these elections to emerge as the representative of Rajput community in the grand old party, which has been on the song in Rajasthan after winning the last Assembly elections. “This will consolidate his position in the party,” opines Bareth.
Rahul encouraging young faces
The secretary of the All India Congress Committee and former co-incharge of the Rajasthan Congress, Qazi Nizamuddin, claims that since the day Rahul Gandhi has taken over as the AICC president, young faces in all the states are being brought at the forefront. “Workers or office bearers who have performed well are being given a chance to prove their mettle,” he says.
Nizamuddin said that Vaibhav worked hard as general secretary of Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee. “We are hopeful about him making a place in the heart of the people and winning the elections,” he says, and adds that Vaibhav’s father—CM Ashok Gehlot—enjoys mass support in Jodhpur constituency, and that could help him (Vaibhav) turn the tables on his opponents.
Referring to Mavendra Singh, Nizamuddin says, his father (Jaswant Singh) was also very popular in Barmer-Jaisalmer constituency and it’s a “plus point” for his son.
Among all, Sachin Pilot, has emerged as a “role model” for the young leaders in the state.
Sachin’s father, late Rajesh Pilot, was one of the most dynamic leaders of the Congress party. Sachin has carried forward the legacy of his father and he is among the most powerful leaders in Rajasthan.
Sachin was handed over the reins of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee (RPCC) after the party’s debacle in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Under his leadership, the Congress party resurrected as a force to reckon with and is ruling the state.
After Congress won the 2018 Assembly polls in Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot, being the RPCC chief emerged as a top contender for the Chief Minister’s post. But the Congress high command chose old hand Ashok Gehlot over the young man.
Sachin expressed dismay over the decision, following which his supporters hit the streets. He was reportedly pacified by top Congress leaders and was awarded with Dy CM’s post.
As of now Sachin faces no competition as his competitors, Ashok Gehlot's son, Vaibhav, and Jaswant Singh’s son, Manvendra Singh, are struggling to establish themselves as the second line leaders in the party.
Vaibhav, has remained an active member of the Congress party for the past 15-years and has held important positions in the party but he is still a beginner in electoral politics.
If Vaibhav and Manvendra win their respective seats it would mean that Rajasthan Congress would get two more youth leaders, who can stand with Pilot in future.
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