Dubbed "good friends of the Congress days", Rajya Sabha member Jyotiraditya Scindia and Rajasthan Congress leader Sachin Pilot though on Tuesday campaigned for different political ideologies in the Gwalior-Chambal region. But their meeting and exchange of normal pleasantries hit the headlines in Madhya Pradesh amid charged political atmosphere ahead of bypolls on November 3.
Sources say the two leaders are staying away from each other since Scindia left the Congress for the BJP in March. But Pilot reportedly remained in touch with his former party colleague when he rebelled against the Congress in Rajasthan recently and there was speculation that he was on the brink of joining the BJP.
The Congress strategically named Pilot among its star campaigners for the bypolls in MP, and Pilot too agreed to do his part.
He revealed in a poll rally in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday that it was former chief minister Kamal Nath who had called him up, asking if he would campaign for him in the bypolls, and he readily agreed.
However, ahead of the rallies in MP, Scindia and Pilot met at the airport and it was Scindia who stated this publicly. “I welcomed him in MP as this is our tradition,” said Scindia, adding that everyone is free to campaign in a democracy.
Pilot too reciprocated the political courtesy initiated by Scindia in Gwalior by not naming his ‘old friend’ in election rallies, let alone attacking him in his speeches. The former Rajasthan deputy CM focussed his criticism on Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Chouhan and the BJP, accusing them of toppling Kamal Nath's democratically elected government.
Congress insiders say the party wanted to assess Pilot's loyalty following his rebellion by fielding him in Gwalior-Chambal against his friend, and also the party had no youth leader to match Scindia's charisma on his home turf.
Also, Gurjars, a caste represented by Pilot, exist in significant numbers in seats like Morena, Sumawali, etc. The Congress also wanted to convey a message by flying in Pilot to MP that those who stay will have a greater role to play in the party and outside their home states. Pilot is also being sent to Bihar for campaigning. His entry in MP also is in line with the Congress's slogan "Bikau nahi tikau chahiye (Want a stalwart, not a turncoat)".
Scindia too has not named Pilot in his poll rallies.
Both the young leaders have several similarities including being sons of former senior Congress leaders (Madhav Rao Scindia and Rajesh Pilot), both were ministers in the UPA and led the campaign in their respective states in assembly polls in 2018, and both were snubbed when it came to the post of chief minister.
Once key lieutenants of Rahul Gandhi, they had a falling-out with the senior leader after 2018.
Senior political analyst Manish Dixit said Pilot had to carry out a balancing act of not enraging his party by campaigning in MP and also not upsetting his friend (Scindia). Scindia and Pilot are two leaders who could switch over to each other’s sides in future, Dixit noted.
Dr Ajay Khemariya, a political observer from Gwalior, told News18 that the Congress wanted Pilot to rebuke Scindia openly which he didn’t, and Scindia also attempted to deflate the Congress plans by revealing his meeting with the Rajasthan leader.
Gurjars are not present in massive numbers in the region, but due to Pilot’s presence the Congress could benefit to an extent among the community on some seats, he added.