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Govind Singh Dotasara wears crown of thorns

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Prakash Bhandari: Govind Singh Dotasara, who took over the reins of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee on Wednesday, faces an uphill task of rejuvenating and reuniting a faction-ridden party. Dotasara, 55, a three-time MLA, is the education minister and he is likely to perform the duel task of being a minister as well as the president of Congress’ state unit. He succeeds Sachin Pilot, who had the longest reign as the PCC president for six years till he was sacked by the party. Pilot was also holding the position of the deputy chief minister and the PCC chief.

Dotasara enjoys tremendous popularity in his constituency in Laxmangarh in Sikar district. A son of a farmer, he belongs to the Jat community. He is the fifth Jat to be made the PCC president. Prior to him, Nathu Ram Mirdha, Ram Narayan Choudhry, Parasram Maderna and Narayan Singh had served as the PCC president.

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Dotasara in the 2013 election surprised everyone with his victory when the ruling Congress was decimated to just 21 seats in a House of 200 by the BJP.

He was the choice of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. During the party’s crisis following the rebellion by Sachin Pilot and group, Dotasara was an instant choice and his nomination as the PCC president came along with the dismissal of Pilot.

The AICC observers Randeep Surjewala, Ajay Makan, and AICC general secretary in-charge of Rajasthan Avinash Pandey, with the guidance of Ashok Gehlot took no time to name the Jat leader as the PCC president.

Jats are a powerful farming community in the state. Dotasara is a junior leader and his rapid rise has surprised former leader of Opposition Rameshwar Dudi, who considers himself a tall Jat leader. Gehlot preferred Dotasara over young Harish Choudhry, who is a former MP from Barmer and is currently a Cabinet minister in Gehlot’s government. Choudhry is also close to Gehlot and was being groomed for organisational responsibility. But in a sudden change of events, Dotasara was preferred over Choudhry and Dudi. Dudi, a former MP from Bikaner lost a lot of clout after his Assembly election debacle.

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The Jats were traditionally backing the Congress and it was only in the nineties that due to the herculean efforts of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the Jats were lured by the BJP. This resulted in a void in the Congress and the shift of the Jat electorates’ affinity towards the BJP. The BJP became a stronger outfit after it gained the support of the Jat community, categorised as OBC.

In recent times, the Jat community, which has been traditionally a farming community, has excelled in all walks of life. The growing importance of education in the Jat community has resulted in members of the community excelling in various competitive examinations. The education standards in the Jat belt of Sikar, Jhunjhunu , Churu, Bikaner, Ganganagar, Nagaur, Jalore Pali, Barmer, Jaisalmer and some parts of Ajmer is high and the Jat boys and girls have made their mark in all spheres of life. This has also helped in making the Jat community politically stronger. The Jats dominate both the Congress and the BJP and both the parties have chosen to make Jats as their state president to woo the Jat voters.

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Dotasara is politically stronger as compared to his BJP adversary Satish Poonia, who is a first time MLA. The biggest task before Dotasara is to rebuild the image of the Congress party that suffered huge unpopularity because of the internal feud.

Sachin Pilot should be credited for rejuvenating the party which was dumped by the electorate in the 2013 election and in 2014 Lok Sabha election. Even with the best efforts of Pilot, the Congress got a massive drubbing losing all the 25 seats to the BJP in the 2019 general election.

After winning the Vidhan Sabha election in 2018, the Congress was still a little away from the majority and it could form the government with the support of the independent MLAs and the BSP. But in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, with two stalwarts like Gehlot as the chief minister and Pilot as the president of the Congress’ state unit, the party received a second drubbing at the hands of the BJP losing all the 25 seats.

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The biggest task before Dotasara is the civic poll in the state that was deferred because of the coronavirus pandemic. Now if everything goes right, the elections would take place in December. This would be a test for Dotasara as the BJP is very strong in the urban areas as compared to the rural parts. If he succeeds in leading the Congress to victory in the civic poll this would be considered a revival of fortune. Dotasara will also have to revive the various frontal organisations which for years has hardly helped the Congress in making its base stronger.