Govind Singh Dotasara, who replaced Sachin Pilot as Congress president in Rajasthan, is among a long line of Jat leaders who have led the party in the state. However, despite having ambitions to become the chief minister, none of his predecessors could ultimately succeed.
The 55-year-old Dotasara, who is also the education minister of Rajasthan, took charge as the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief on Wednesday in presence of chief minister Ashok Gehlot and other Congress leaders including former PCC chiefs. Dotasara was given the post after the open rebellion by former Deputy CM and 18 of his loyalists.
According to sources in the Rajasthan Congress, Dotasara, who is a Gehlot loyalist, was elevated to the post to appease the Jat community, which holds substantial electoral influence in the desert state.
The Jat leader was elevated to the post of the state Congress chief almost 15 years after he contested his first election to become a member of a panchayat samiti in the state. A lawyer by profession, Dotasara joined the Congress party in 2005. Since 2008, Dotasara has won thrice the MLA elections from the Lakshmangarh constituency in Sikar. He was handed the independent charge of Ministry of State for Education along with the Ministry of Tourism and Devasthan Department after Congress returned to power in 2018. Earlier, he was chief whip of the Congress in the 14th Rajasthan assembly.
Gujar - Jat axis
The fact that 8 of the 19 rebel Congress MLAs, including Pilot, are Jats and Gurjars is also a factor that the Congress seems to have considered before appointing Dotasara. Both traditionally pastoral communities, Jats and Gurjars consider each other closely connected and the same has been repeatedly affirmed by present Jat leaders of Rajasthan such as Hanuman Beniwal, MP from Nagaur.
Ever since Pilot, a Gurjar by caste, has rebelled, the Congress has been proactive to underplay the prospect of losing Gurjar support through statements of other Gurjar leaders of the party such as Gehlot loyalist Ashok Chandna. In Rajasthan, Jats are numerically the most dominant caste group accounting for around 15 per cent of the electorate.
"Since veteran Jat leaders such as Hemaram Choudhry from the Marwar region sided with Pilot, the Congress needs to send a message to the community that the party rewards Jats who stick with them," Om Saini, a senior political analyst, told Outlook.
In the party circle's, Dotasara's crowning as state Congress president is also seen as a neutralising move to influence the Jat voters in the next assembly polls, especially since the party's biggest political opponent and former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje enjoys a clout in the community. During election campaigns, Raje doesn't miss a chance to self-project herself as the daughter-in-law of a Jat family, daughter of Rajput's and mother-in-law to Gujjars. She started enjoying the clout after 2003, when Congress lost power as Ashok Gehlot was preferred over Paras Ram Maderna for the CM's post and the Jats tilted towards BJP because they considered Raje as 'Jat bahu'.
However, in 2018 Congress had relied heavily on Jats for success in the assembly polls. Be it ticket distribution or ministerial berths, the Jats were kept above all castes. The Congress fielded 32 Jats out of which 18 won. Whereas BJP fielded 29 Jats out of which only 12 won. Overall in the 200 assembly house, the community managed 37 seats, out of which 31 were from Marwar and Shekhawati regions.
The curious case of Jat PCC chiefs who never became CMs
Unlike stalwart Jat leaders such as Parasram Maderna and Sis Ram Ola, who were once seen as potential chief ministerial candidates, Dotasara lacks the clout. As of now, the newly elected Congress chief doesn't nurture ambitions for the top post either. This is likely to benefit the CM as well as the party's image among the Jat community.
"In Rajasthan, the support of Jat and Rajput communities is significant for winning elections. Historically it has been seen that only those individuals who can garner support of all communities can chalk a successful path in Rajasthan's politics. Dotasara is known to be such a person and his appointment can also help the Congress to secure the support of Jats in the Shekhawati region, from where he belongs," Saini added.
In the past, despite influential Jat leaders holding the post of Congress president such as Choudhary Harlal Singh, Nathuram Mirdha , Parasram Maderna, Sis Ram Ola, Dr Chandrabhan and others, no leader from the community has ever become the chief minister.
"There have been instances, such as the one in 1985-86, when a Jat leader, Parasram Maderna, was elected as the CLP leader but lost out the CM's post to Hari Dev Joshi after the former couldn't secure the support of enough MLAs. A decade before Maderna, Ram Niwas Mirdha, another stalwart Jat leader, missed out on the top post in a similar manner," Saini said.
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