NEW DELHI: Congress leader Sachin Pilot on Friday stressed that the party would fight the Rajasthan assembly polls “unitedly” and said that a decision on who would lead the next government would be taken by the high command after consultations with the newly-elected MLAs. Exuding confidence that the Congress would buck the ‘revolving door’ trend in Rajasthan in the upcoming polls, the former deputy chief minister said the party is “absolutely united” with everyone’s priority and efforts directed towards repeating the government in the desert state.
In an exclusive interview with PTI ahead of the crucial Congress Working Committee meeting in Hyderabad, Pilot said the Congress has lived up to all the election promises it made in the 2018 Rajasthan polls and that is why he believes, the state government and the party working together, will be able to defeat the BJP.
Asked about his assertion earlier that the party would go to polls with collective leadership despite an incumbent CM in Ashok Gehlot, Pilot said that has been the tradition and convention in the Congress not just in Rajasthan but all over the country. “Once we win and get a majority, the legislators and the party leadership then decide who will lead the legislature party. This is not something new. This has been the practice for decades and in the states, we are going to polls in the next few months, the same policy would be followed,” he said.
Asked about the CM face of the party, Pilot said, “Mr. (Mallikarjun) Kharge ji, Rahul (Gandhi) ji and Sonia ji are our leaders and in Rajasthan, we have a Congress government. So we have to work effectively, unitedly to win the majority.” “Once we secure the mandate, the legislators and the leadership will decide. Even last time in 2018, when I was the state party chief, we did not have a CM face, it was post-elections that the legislators and the leadership, at that time it was Rahul ji as president, decided who would lead the government,” he said.
“Once we get a majority, MLAs will be consulted, leadership will take a considered view and decide on who will lead the government. It is nothing new and that is how it has always been done,” he told PTI. Asked about Gehlot calling him names such as ‘nikamma’, ‘nakara’ and ‘gaddar’, in the past and whether he had put that behind him, Pilot said, “I have always shown utmost respect and restraint in all my public utterances. My values and upbringing do not permit me to use a language that would lower the dignity of our discourse.” “It is important to set an example for young people to follow,” he said.
To a question about no action taken till now against three Gehlot loyalists who had not allowed a legislature party meeting to take place last year and were issued a show cause notice, Pilot said, “I don’t want to comment on this, it is up to AICC to decide on such issues.” Pilot claimed that the BJP is in “tatters” in the state and is facing various kinds of “contradictions” within its organisation.
The BJP has not been able to perform the role of the ruling party at the Centre and has let down the people, and in equal measure it has not been able to perform the role of an opposition in Rajasthan whether inside the state assembly or outside, Pilot alleged. On the BJP’s criticism that the state has suffered on account of maintaining law and order due to his feud with CM Gehlot, Pilot hit back, saying that instead of politicising a sensitive issue the BJP should show the same concern at the atrocities committed on the tribals and the Dalits in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and other BJP-ruled states.
“In Rajasthan whenever there has been a problem of law and order, the government has taken action, administration has responded, nabbed the culprits and imposed strict punishment on the perpetrators,” he said. “The BJP is in a complete mess as far as their organisation is concerned… They are just hoping that history would repeat itself without any efforts,” he said.
For four-and-a-half years the BJP was missing on the ground in Rajasthan and that is the reason that people don’t trust it, he claimed and alleged that the BJP has made laws against farmers, imposed a flawed GST and tinkered with so many policies. “The Congress under the leadership of Mr Kharge, Mr Gandhi will be able to win the elections in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh,” he said.
Asked about his statement that he had been advised by party chief Kharge to forgive and forget and whether he had buried the hatchet with Gehlot, Pilot said, “The Congress party has always been united.” “Whatever issues we have, we are within our right to discuss, talk about it and make sure that people’s voices are heard at the highest levels. The leadership has taken cognisance of the issues I raised and steps have already been taken to address them.” Pilot exuded confidence that the Congress would buck the revolving door trend in the state to form a government again.
“I think our performance, our unity, coupled with the BJP’s absence from the ground in the last four-and-a-half years and the constant pulls and pressures within the BJP among those trying to become CM, will see the Congress win,” he said. “From the response and the feedback that I have gotten through my travels in the state, I am confident that we will be able to form the government,” Pilot stressed.
Asked about his induction into the Congress Working Committee and whether his focus still is on Rajasthan despite the responsibility of the party at the central level, Pilot said for more than two decades he has fulfilled with utmost sincerity whatever role the party assigned to him. “But my heart lies in Rajasthan and that is where I can add most value. Certainly, I will do whatever the party asks me to do but my priority will be to ensure that we break this 30-year cycle of BJP-Congress and repeat the Congress government in Rajasthan,” he asserted.
In July, Pilot made it clear that he had buried the hatchet with Rajasthan Chief Minister Gehlot on the advice of party president Kharge, saying collective leadership was the “only way” forward going into the assembly polls. In an interview with PTI just days after a crucial Rajasthan polls strategy meeting of the party, Pilot had said Kharge advised him to “forgive and forget” and move forward. “It was as much an advice as a directive.” “If there is a little back and forth, then it is not a big issue because the party and the public are more important than any individual. I also understand this and he (Gehlot) also understands it,” the former Rajasthan deputy chief minister had said back then.
Gehlot and Pilot have been engaged in a power tussle since the Congress formed government in the state in 2018. In 2020, Pilot led a revolt against Gehlot after which he lost the posts of the party’s state unit president and deputy chief minister. Last year, an attempt by the high command to effect a leadership change in Rajasthan had failed after some Gehlot loyalists dug their heels in and acting contrary to the central leadership’s directives did not allow a legislature party meeting to take place.