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BJP adds a twist to Pilot's maiden show

By Mohammed Iqbal

DAUSA (RAJASTHAN), APRIL 22. The first electoral battle of young Sachin Pilot in the Dausa Lok Sabha constituency -- earlier represented by his father, Rajesh Pilot -- will not be without the usual upheavals for the novice. Pilot Junior faces a triangular contest involving fresh caste divisions among the electorate created by an astute move of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The BJP -- by fielding a Gujjar candidate, Kartar Singh Bhadana, against Sachin -- has made a serious attempt to divide the Gujjar votes, which were polled en masse in favour of Congress ever since Rajesh Pilot started his political career in Dausa in 1984. Mr. Bhadana, who was a Minister in the Om Prakash Chautala Government in Haryana, resigned from the Indian National Lok Dal recently to join the BJP.

Adding yet another angle to the contest is the former BJP leader and three-time party candidate, Rohitashwa Kumar Sharma, who has quit the party to join the race as an INLD candidate. For 26-year-old Sachin, who has staked his claim as successor to his father, the polls have thrown a challenge of wading through the rough and tumble of caste politics.

Rajesh Pilot's widow, Rama Pilot, won the seat in the by-election in 2000. The BJP has sought to break the Gujjar vote-bank through Mr. Bhadana, even though there seem to be divisions in its ranks over an outsider being brought here and the ticket being denied to many local contenders.

Mr. Sharma chose to part company with the BJP after the party rejected his claim for candidature once again. According to political observers here, he has the capacity to split the votes of Brahmins, whose number is slightly less than that of Gujjars. "We will cause a significant damage to the BJP,'' says Radheyshyam, an INLD activist.

Sachin, on the other hand, is confident that the voters, irrespective of their caste, would support him because of his "youthful vision''. Addressing a public gathering at the stone mandi near village Manpur, he accused the BJP of seeking votes by dividing the society. "You must reject their propaganda and vote for a youngster who will continue the development of the region,'' he appealed.

The BJP activists, however, discard the contention that Mr. Bhadana should be rejected just because he has landed from Haryana. "The Pilot family is no different. They have come here from Uttar Pradesh,'' Dwarka Prasad Gupta, former BJP Councillor, said while affirming that Mr. Bhadana would end casteism by challenging the consolidation of Gujjars around the Pilot family.

Amid the claims and counter-claims, the political career of this product of the Wharton Business School of the U.S. -- who has chosen the rural land of Dausa as his testing field -- is set to witness intriguing turns in the near future.

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