Jaipur: Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot, one of the chief ministerial aspirants in the state, maintains there is no confusion between him and former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot over the December 7 assembly elections and the decision on who will be the chief minister will be taken by the party and the elected MLAs.
He feels “agrarian distress” and unemployment are key issues his party is taking up against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the assembly polls and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not be able to overcome the “huge resentment” against the Vasundhra Raje government by his electioneering in the state.
“We have never done that. In 70 years of Rajasthan’s history, the Congress party has never selected an individual. I had the great honour of working as state party president. What the elected MLAs and Congress party decides will be acceptable to all of us,” Pilot told IANS in an interview.
He said the leadership issue was not creating confusion and the first first priority is to win the state and win it comprehensively.
Asked if he would like to be chief minister given a chance, Pilot, 41, said he has always followed the party’s decisions.
He alleged that law and order has collapsed in the state, there was social disharmony, cases of mob lynching, cow vigilantism and social unrest were on rise and the BJP was seeking to use “caste, community and religion” to boost its prospects.
The former Union minister said Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje “is very disliked”.
“When Modi comes here, he cannot dissociate himself from Vasundaraji. The five-year track record of Vasundhara government — he has to be answerable for that also. You go to Karnataka and you start blaming the Congress government there, but here Vasundhara government is very disliked and people have a huge resentment against her. I don’t think his campaign will be able to overcome that,” Pilot said.
He was asked about the perception that Modi is able to boost the BJP’s prospects in assembly polls by his aggressive campaigning in the last few days. Modi is slated to address 10 rallies in Rajasthan beginning Sunday.
Pilot, who was appointed Rajasthan Congress chief in 2014 after the Congress debacle in the 2013 Assembly polls, said Modi’s campaign will have little impact and referred to his campaigns in Bihar and Delhi assembly elections which the BJP had lost. “We know what results were there,” he said.
Asked if Vasundhara Raje was a liability for BJP, he said: “I don’t know what it is, but they have chosen to project her knowing fully well the resentment people have against her government. So they will have to pay a price.”
Pilot said anti-incumbency was a factor as BJP had won 163 of 200 seats in the 2013 assembly polls but had “betrayed the trust of people”.
“More than anti-incumbency, it is hope that people have from the Congress now,” he said.
Asked about the number of seats Congress will win given that surveys have predicted a clear majority for the party, Pilot said he cannot predict the future, but “with five years of my work and the party being strong on the ground, I am very confident that we will get a thumping majority”.
Asked about the main issues of the party, Pilot said the “agrarian crisis faced by the farmers was number one issue” in the state.
“The crisis has led to farmer suicides, crippling of agriculture sector. Young people being unemployed and underemployed is so rampant that the future seems bleak. Unemployment and farmers’ distress are the two biggest issues that Rajasthan is facing.”
Pilot said Rajasthan had a high average of rape cases despite having a woman chief minister.
“Law and order has collapsed. There is social disharmony with cases of mob lynching, cow vigilantism and social unrest on the rise. The kind of negativity that is being spread in society. On the top of it (there is) corruption and privatisation of schools and hospitals.”
On the perception about BJP having better booth-level management, Pilot said it was propaganda and added that in the byelection for Ajmer parliamentary seat earlier this year there were many booths where the BJP did not get any vote.
“It is a record of sorts. When people are with you, all the poll management, all money, all resources fall by the wayside. Their will prevails.”
On BJP fielding the lone Muslim minister Yunus Khan against him in Tonk, Pilot said he was glad that the ruling party’s plan of replicating the Uttar Pradesh template has not been successful.
He said Yunus Khan “was denied a ticket because of religion he belongs to, and, ironically, he had been given a ticket from Tonk only because of the religion he belongs to” and not because party workers from the area were demanding his candidature.
“It is sad that BJP is looking at castes, communities and religion. They are clutching at straws. They are insecure. They have no answers to give for lack of development in Tonk. So they are trying to use communal politics to their advantage.”
On the Congress facing the problem of rebels, Pilot said a lot of them have withdrawn from fray and others will also come around.
About Vasundhara government making changes in text books, he said it is myopic thinking. “They are trying to put religion into politics, they are trying to polarise our society; people are going to remember all that. Any wrong they have done will be reviewed and we will take action as appropriate.”
He said Congress had a very forward-looking roadmap which will revive industry, agriculture, create jobs and provide a safe environment to all residents of the state.
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])