Casting his vote in Mandava, which is part of the Ajmer Lok Sabha constituency in Rajasthan, Ram Prakash Gurjar, 90, makes an insightful comment: "My vote has gone for the young boy (Sachin Pilot) but I can say nothing about the poll outcome".
On polling day on April 17 at this religious centre of Ajmer — known for its 16th century shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti — Pilot was being credited with having raised the bar and brought himself in the reckoning in what are seen as adverse circumstances for the Congress. "Among the doubtful seats for the BJP in this election, Ajmer is certainly one," said Ajmer resident Girdhar Tejwani.
Being Ajmer's first MP to have become union minister and being elevated recently as state Congress chief has helped, while his candidature has been assisted by another unusual factor: The perceived reluctance on the part of the BJP's Sawar Lal Jat to win the seat as he is said to be happy in his present capacity as the number two minister in the Vasundhara Raje government.
But this doesn't mean Pilot can comfortably repeat the 2009 performance, when he defeated the BJP's Kiran Maheshwari here.
Starting off as a reluctant customer, Jat's position is hugely strengthened because of the saffron party's impressive performance in last year's assembly elections, when the BJP won all eight assembly seats in Ajmer by huge margins of about 2 lakh votes. "Jat may not be keen himself but younger BJP workers wanting to go up the ladder are working hard to push him to Delhi as an MP," said a district BJP worker. The so-called Modi wave is also working to Jat's advantage.
Ajmer has been at the centre of a communal divide in the past. After the Dargah blasts of 2007, activities of terror groups here have continued to be reported, with an Indian Mujhadeen operative having been arrested last month. Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia had also launched his Trishul Diksha (distribution of tridents) in the city. "A polarisation of voters has usually helped the BJP," political analyst Muzaffar Bharti said.
RSS functionaries have a clear stake in the Ajmer contest, with the organisation's chief Mohan Bhagwat having made three trips to the city in the past six months.
The electoral outcome will eventually depend on the ability of workers of either party to take their voters to the polling booths.