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September 4, 2000
Rama Pilot may be Congress nominee in Dausa
Kamla Bora in Jaipur
The Congress is likely to field Rama Pilot, widow of the charismatic Rajesh Pilot, as its candidate for the bye-election to the Lok Sabha from Dausa in Rajasthan. The election is due to be conducted on September 29.
Rama Pilot is the obvious choice for the Congress to reap the benefit of the sympathy wave that is flowing through the constituency after her husband's tragic death in a road accident in June this year.
She is currently a member of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly from Hindoli in Bundi district, which she represented in 1990 too. She had lost the assembly election from Bansur in Alwar district in 1993.
Pilot has given ample indication of her willingness to contest the Dausa seat and fill the vacancy in the Lok Sabha caused by husband's death. Ever since his death, she has been meeting people from Dausa in New Delhi and has also toured the area to keep her husband's connections alive.
The filing of nomination papers for bye-elections began on Monday, but the Congress is yet to announce its candidates for the two in Rajasthan -- for the Dausa parliamentary constituency and Lunkaransar assembly seat. According to present indications, the party's choice in both cases may fall on kinsmen of the deceased members.
The bye-election for the Lunkaransar seat has been necessitated by the death, also in a road accident, of Congress member Bhimsen Chaudhary. Both by-polls are crucial for the Congress government headed by Ashok Gehlot, whose personal popularity will also be on test.
Despite his charismatic personality and lively contact with the electorate in his constituency, Rajesh pilot scraped through with a margin of just 5,000 votes against the Bharatiya Janata Party's candidate in the 1999 general election. So the contest in the by-election may not be an easy one for Rama Pilot.
Meanwhile, the BJP is gearing up for the contest on the assumption that Rama Pilot will be the Congress nominee and win the voters' sympathy because of her husband's tragic death. Since the Pilots have loyal support from the dominant Gujjar community, it is considering fielding a Brahmin candidate of stature to garner this community's vote. Besides it is banking on the votes of the Meenas who traditionally vote against the Gujjars.
Many political observers believe that it will be difficult for Rama Pilot to retain her late husband's legacy for long, but concede that the sympathy wave would help her sail through at least in this election.
Pilot has been telling supporters in Dausa that she is committed to fulfilling the task left incomplete by her husband. She has also been saying, cautiously, that if party asks her to contest the bye-election, she would 'abide by the directive'.
In Lunkaransar, the party's choice may ultimately be the wife or son of the late Chaudhary. The BJP, in all probability, will field former minister Manik Chand Surana, who had lost the 1998 assembly election to Chaudhary.
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