Rajasthan Assembly Elections 2018: Sachin Pilot or Ashok Gehlot, who will become Congress’s face for CM?

Ashok Gehlot or Sachin Pilot


The election fever is here, and it is here with a storm. Without failing expectations, all the parties have marched into action, ready to give their final outcry before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

In Rajasthan, too, the warhorn has been blown. On one hand, BJP is trying hard to come to power again, with Vasundhara Raje fighting anti-incumbency. On the other, Congress has its own set of tasks. Two major names, namely, ex-Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, and state President Sachin Pilot are being seen as Congress’s face for CM.

The party has refrained from declaring any names for now, but the question still lingers. If Congress wins the 2018 assembly elections, who will be the state’s next CM, Ashok Gehlot or Sachin Pilot?

Why hasn’t Congress declared its CM candidate?

Despite there being pressure, both from inside and outside, to reveal the CM candidate, the truth is Congress has followed this ‘secretive’ practice for a while now. At the time of 2008 assembly elections, there was confusion till the last minute about who will become the Chief Minister- CP Joshi or Ashok Gehlot. It was post-results that Gehlot was given the post.

So, the party choosing not to reveal all of its cards is not exactly a “once in a blue moon” event. The question left is, why? What benefits can Congress reap from not naming either Gehlot or Pilot, despite all the mounting pressure to do otherwise? Let’s dig into that layer by layer. The party has two options:

a. Revealing the face for CM

Despite coming from a community that only has about 3% of the votes, Gehlot has managed to become the Chief Minister twice. His roots into the state, as well as in national politics are evidently strong. There had been talks of not giving Gehlot a ticket for the assembly elections, and naturally, there was pressurising internal dissent to follow.

A similar problem would pose in Sachin Pilot’s case. The young leader has been actively working in the state for the past few years, gathering support for the party. Many are confident that it is because of Pilot’s chairmanship in the state, along with the hard work, that Congress has any real chances of winning the 2018 Assembly elections.

By revealing its CM face, be it any of the two, the party would have guaranteed itself a great internal conflict ahead of the crucial elections.

b. Not revealing the face for CM

Had Congress declared any of the two leaders as its CM candidate, chaos was sure to follow. Both Gehlot and Pilot enjoy significant popularity in Rajasthan, along with a huge number of followers. Outrightly choosing one over the other wouldn’t have ended well, and the chance of an internal conflict would have multi-folded.

There is another reason why the strategy of not revealing any names is more beneficial. It will be a huge setback for the part if, in the worst case scenario, the name declared does not manage to bag a win in the elections.

Ashok Gehlot or Sachin Pilot?

One is a veteran politician with 40+ years of political experience, two times Chief Minister of Rajasthan. The other is the President of Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee, and perhaps Congress’s most promising young leader, many would argue. It is apparent why INC would want to plant one of these two faces in Rajasthan. The question is, who is the better choice?

Ashok Gehlot

Entering into politics at quite a young age, Gehlot became the first President of Nation Student’s Union of India’s (NSUI) Rajasthan wing in 1974. He has held Rajasthan’s Chief Ministerial post twice- once from 1998-2003, and then from 2008-2013. Considered to be among the state’s most popular CMs, his tenure is often praised for the development outlook, including the contribution in drought management.

Some points to note:

  • He is the current General Secretary of Indian National Congress.
  • He’s been a Member of Parliament (MP) 5 times; MLA twice, the second tenure ongoing.
  • He was responsible for guiding Congress in the crucial Gujarat Assembly elections of 2017. Despite the party not winning, it managed to get an impressive number of seats in Modi’s home state.
  • Subsequently, he was among the few senior leaders given the crucial task of handling the Karnataka situation in May 2018, post the Assembly elections.
  • Ashok Gehlot had also been trusted with the task holding discussions with the Andra CM, N Chandrababu Naidu, regarding the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Sachin Pilot

41 years old Sachin Pilot comes from a family of politicians. His parents, late Rajesh Pilot and Rama Pilot have a great share of political history. He was elected Member of Parliament from Dausa in 2004, at the age of just 26. He was the youngest MP at that time. Pilot also held the post of Minister of Corporate Affairs back in 2012. He is said to be close to the party President, Rahul Gandhi.

Some points to note:

  • He has been MP twice- once from Dausa constituency, the other time from Ajmer.
  • Pilot has been engaged in groundwork for the past four years- successfully building back Congress’s image.
  • The 2018 January Lok Sabha by-elections in 2 out of 3 Rajasthan seats were won by Congress- namely Alwar and Ajmer. Credits for this major return to power, seen as the initial wave of change in Rajasthan, can be attributed to Pilot’s leadership.
  • In all the opinion polls leading up to the elections, Sachin Pilot has been named the number one preference for the next Chief Minister.

An opinion

If it comes to judging who is better qualified to become the next Chief Minister, there is no definite answer. As mentioned before, both the candidates are perhaps the best Congress has to offer the people of Rajasthan. However, there are other directions to consider.

Ashok Gehlot, with his decades of experience in politics, is certainly acquainted with the state and its people very well. That being said, we need to look at some other important facts.

Why Sachin Pilot may be a good choice for Chief Minister over Ashok Gehlot

  1. What Sachin Pilot may not have in years, he has certainly made up for, with his speed. In his young career, he has already come a very long way.
  2. Pilot has never contested in State Assembly elections before, and it was on his party’s nudging that he is standing up this time. The fact that Congress has chosen to place him in the field, is already a sign of the party’s confidence in him. Not to mention, a hint that Pilot may very well become their choice of preference.
  3. He is known for the cool he maintains, along with the confidence, while taking down the attacks made by rival parties.
  4. In recent times, Gehlot’s involvement on the national level has increased significantly. He is already the General Secretary of Indian National Congress and has proved to be an asset in multiple electoral and political matters. In such circumstances, it will be a better choice to place Sachin Pilot in the state leadership instead.
  5. Pilot has already proven himself to be the public’s most-favoured choice for Chief Minister, as is evident from the opinion polls as well.


From the looks of it, the suspense around Congress’s choice isn’t going to break anytime soon. The best strategy is to maintain the secrecy, ensuring that party members loyal to either of the two leaders continue to put in best efforts, hoping for their preferred candidate to escalate to the high post.

While we will still have to wait for December 11 to see who Congress chooses, assuming the party obtains a majority in the first place, it is safe to say that Pilot may be the more popular choice. At least among the voters.

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