In Rajasthan’s Tonk, a battle of opposites in Congress’ Sachin Pilot and BJP’s Yunus Khan

Rajasthan assembly elections 2018: For the December 7 Rajasthan assembly election, the Congress has fielded state chief Sachin Pilot from the Tonk seat while the BJP’s candidate is Yunus Khan. Both candidates are ‘outsiders’ but geographically Tonk is close to Pilot’s Lok Sabha constituencies, Dausa and Ajmer.

rajasthan elections Updated: Nov 27, 2018 14:30 IST
Sachin Saini
Sachin Saini
Hindustan Times, Tonk
Rajasthan Election 2018,Rajasthan Election 2018 News,Rajasthan Constituency
Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot, who is the party’s candidate from Tonk assembly seat in the December 7 election, is contesting assembly election for the first time. (HT Photo )

The Tonk assembly constituency in Rajasthan seems to be headed for an interesting battle of opposites: state Congress chief Sachin Pilot is contesting state elections for the first time, while Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) candidate Yunus Khan is a cabinet minister in the Vasundhara Raje government.

Both candidates are ‘outsiders’ but geographically Tonk is close to Pilot’s Lok Sabha constituencies, Dausa and Ajmer, which he won in 2004 and 2009 respectively. The BJP won this seat, dominated by minority communities including Muslims, Scheduled Castes and Gujjars, in 2013. Congress broke a four-decade-long tradition of fielding Muslim candidate from Tonk when it announced Pilot’s candidacy. In a last minute pivot, the BJP replaced Ajit Singh Mehta with Khan — the only Muslim face in BJP’s list of 200 candidates.

Rajasthan will go to polls on December 7.

“They talk of anti-incumbency but we have people behind us. With you is just a convoy of vehicles,” Khan hit out at Pilot, during one of the rallies. Other BJP leaders have called Congress a “barat” (wedding procession) without a groom. In retaliation, Pilot entered Chaan village on a mare, while villagers played dhol, busted crackers and shouted slogans.

Both candidates are tackling the issue of development. Addressing a gathering at Arniya Neel village, Khan said, “I am from Deedwana. I am contesting from here as a worker and fulfilling the responsibility given by the party. I am raising local issues of development, but Pilot is confused as he is speaking on national issues such as Rafale aircraft.”

However, not everyone is convinced. “No one works be it any government. The road was made a month back but there is no water line and the pump of the tube well is stolen,” said resident Meena Devi.

In Chaan village, women tied rakhis on Pilot’s hand, even as the deserted rural roads buzzed with people waiting to hear the Pilot. In meetings that lasted well into the night, Pilot attacked the BJP government.

“How much did a gas cylinder cost earlier, and what is the price now?” he asked one gathering. Pilot also brought up the issue of unemployment and farmers’ suicide, which he has accused the state government of not paying attention to, in the past. “The time of these people who are residing and ruling from forts and palaces are over now, and it’s the time for farmers, youth, and everyone else in Rajasthan [to succeed].”

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At Sonwa village, many residents remembered his father, the late Rajesh Pilot, who was a star campaigner for Congress, and a former member of Parliament.

“Education is not expenditure but investment on future, which helps children broaden their horizon and become better citizens. The key to the development of any country is education,” he said at a teachers’ programme in Tonk.

At one point on Saturday, Pilot and Khan held meetings on opposite sides of the road barely 500 metres away from each other in Mehandwas village.

Though the constituency is new for Pilot, people expressed faith in his leadership. “God will help him to win,” said Rukmani Devi, resident of Lambha gram panchayat. But for Kalu Ram Prajapat of Arniya Neel, Khan is the choice. “We vote for the party and not candidate,” he said.

First Published: Nov 27, 2018 13:40 IST