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Congress Walks Factionalism Tightrope During Bharat Jodo Yatra's Rajasthan Leg

The yatra's about 500 km route in Rajasthan was dotted with several Pilot strongholds and the foot march was boosted by massive numbers, several of them being his young supporters who raised pro-Pilot slogans.

Bharat Jodo Yatra in Rajasthan
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As the Bharat Jodo Yatra's Rajasthan leg ended Wednesday, the Congress would have heaved a sigh of relief as it passed the state without any face-off between the supporters of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his bete noire Sachin Pilot despite sloganeering on the roads.

The yatra's about 500 km route in Rajasthan was dotted with several Pilot strongholds and the foot march was boosted by massive numbers, several of them being his young supporters who raised slogans such as "Humara CM Kaisa ho, Sachin Pilot Jaisa ho" and "I Love You, I Love You, Sachin Pilot, I Love You".

Pilot himself walked alongside Rahul Gandhi for most of the distance and on some occasions was also seen gesturing to his supporters raising slogans in his support to not do so.

Gehlot also was a regular feature especially during the morning session of the yatra in the state. In certain places, supporters of Gehlot also raised slogans in his favour and highlighted his "good governance" in the state.

On the 100th day of the yatra, a massive crowd was seen participating in the march as a sea of people thronged the streets of Dausa with many also standing atop their houses and cheering for Gandhi, Gehlot and Pilot.

But Dausa being a Pilot stronghold, his supporters were in very large numbers and also vocal about their feelings that he should be handed over the reins of power and that he alone can return the Congress to power in 2023. Pilot and his father the late Rajesh Pilot, who belong to the Gurjar community, have both been elected to Parliament from Dausa in the past.

"The infighting is hampering the party's chances. The Congress must take a decision and if Pilot is not treated with respect, the party would be in trouble in 2023 assembly polls," Sumer Gurjar, who was participating in the yatra in Dausa, told PTI.

Another person who also belonged to the Gurjar community in Dausa said it is time for the youth to take over and the Congress must back the youth, an apparent reference to Pilot.

Significantly, the yatra's route had a high Gurjar population and most of them were vocal supporters of Pilot. However, youngsters, irrespective of caste equations, were largely seen raising slogans in support of Pilot.

The march did not cover areas where Gehlot is traditionally known to hold sway.

Krapa Shankar, a cab driver in Jaipur, said the Congress could return to power in Rajasthan but for that it must end the Gehlot-Pilot feud.

A number of people on the road said that the Congress would only stand a chance if it ends the internal squabbling soon.

There were also those who believe that the anti-incumbency is peaking in the state with Naveen Kumar, an onion grower in Alwar, saying the government had done nothing for farmers and the onion growers were reeling under the low rates offered to them for their produce.

The yatra had provided a temporary thaw in the long-running Gehlot-Pilot power tussle which most political analysts believe could again flare up in the near future if not addressed by the leadership.

Last week, AICC general secretary K C Venugopal had said "everything will be resolved smoothly" and the party is very much united in the state.

In an interview with PTI, Venugopal had also exuded confidence that the Congress would win the Rajasthan assembly polls next year and return to power.

A major row erupted last month following Gehlot's comments that Pilot is a 'gaddar' (traitor) and cannot replace him. The remarks drew a sharp response from Pilot who had said it was unbecoming of Gehlot's stature to use that kind of language and that such "mud-slinging" would not help at a time the focus should be on the yatra.

The escalation of the Gehlot-Pilot rift just ahead of the entry of yatra into the desert state had put the party in a spot but Venugopal's visit to the state calmed tempers and in a show of unity both Pilot and Gehlot posed for the cameras along with the AICC general secretary.

Asked about the feud, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh had reiterated Gandhi's earlier statement that both leaders are assets for the party.

"Whatever way forward is found by the Congress party and the high command, the principle is very clear, the organisation is supreme. Individuals come and individuals go but it is the organisational interests that are paramount," he had said last week.

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"I would stress on the supremacy of organisational interest and I am sure that is what is on the minds of the Congress president and others who are working to find a solution," Ramesh said.

The yatra crossed over to Haryana from Rajasthan early this morning.

The yatra entered Rajasthan from Madhya Pradesh on December 5. It covered Jhalawar, Kota, Bundi, Sawai Madhopur, Dausa and Alwar districts.

The yatra, which was launched on September 7 in Kanyakumari, has traversed eight states before entering Haryana -- Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

It has seen participation from a cross-section of society, including film and TV celebrities such as Pooja Bhatt, Riya Sen, Sushant Singh, Swara Bhasker, Rashami Desai, Akanksha Puri and Amol Palekar.

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Besides participation from tinsel town celebrities, writers, military veterans, including former Navy chief admiral L Ramdas, Opposition leaders such as Shiv Sena's Aaditya Thackeray and the NCP's Supriya Sule, and former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, have also joined the march at various points.

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