J&K Gujjars Want To Pilot Sachin To Lok Sabha

20 March 2009
The Times of India


New Delhi: It’s payback time for J&K Gujjars. An umbrella organisation of the state’s Gujjars has urged Congress leader Sachin Pilot to contest from Jammu-Poonch constituency after he lost his constituency - Dausa in Rajasthan - to delimitation. Gujjars comprise 30% of the population in the constituency. Community leaders say it’s time for them to do something for the son of their messiah, former Union minister late Rajesh Pilot. “Rajesh Pilot was a great leader of J&K Gujjars who worked tirelessly for the uplift of the community,” said Gujjar affairs expert Javed Rahi. “Among other things, J&K Gujjars are eternally indebted for his role in getting us the ST status, something he wasn’t ironically able to get for his native Rajasthan Gujjars.’’ Rahi said as Union minister in charge of J&K affairs, Pilot senior was a regular visitor to the state. “Even Sachin has maintained close ties with the community in J&K.’’ He said Rajesh Pilot also facilitated the rehabilitation of the nomadic Bakarwal community who lost pastures for their cattle after Army took control of the strategic locations along the LoC in the early 1990s. He said Rajesh Pilot also ensured that Army doesn’t harass Gujjars in their counter-insurgency operations. Pilot senior is also credited with making J&K Gujjars a bankable vote bank for Congress. “Jab Rajesh Pilot markazi vazeer thay, toh Gujjaru ki bohat chalti thee (When Rajesh Pilot was a Union minister, Gujjars had a lot of say),’’ said Rahi. Haji Shamsher Ali Boken, state president of Gujjar Bakerwal Joint Forum, said the community would rally round the young leader and see him through. Community leaders say Sachin, who’s also the brother-in-law of J&K CM Omar Abdullah, would be Congress’s best choice, considering the sway he holds over the Gujjar vote at a time when BJP is fielding “the face of the divisive Amarnath agitation”, Leela Karan Sharma, from the Jammu-Poonch constituency. It would be a sort of quid pro quo if Sachin, who is said to be looking to contest from Ajmer with substantial Gujjar and Muslim vote, decides to accept the offer. Rajasthan Gujjars have decided to nominate a J&K Gujjar candidate, Qammar Rabbani, to contest from Dausa.