A few months ago, the Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and former party chief Rahul Gandhi called a meeting to bring a truce between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin pilot. At the meeting, Gehlot is learnt to have remarked that he had seen the 46-year-old Pilot grow up. An uneasy truce was brokered, but it remains tenuous against the backdrop of the unrelenting rivalry between Gehlot and Pilot.
Pilot says he has never responded to the kind of Gehlot’s harsh criticism of him. He says he believes that, in the event of a Congress victory, the race for chief minister’s post is open. He points to Gehlot’s failure in 2013 as an incumbent to win, reminding that the party had plummeted to 21 seats in that elections and that he helmed the uphill task from 2013 to 2018 to bring the party back to the majority mark.
Asked what makes you confident about a Congress victory, Pilot said Rajasthan has in the last three decades seen revolving door politics. But I am confident that this time we will break that trend. After our victories in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, we have strong tailwinds in the congress organisation. Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra energised workers in the country. We have implemented most of the promises made in 2018. Also, the BJP is not a united force and is in total disarray in Rajasthan, while we are working unitedly.
- Do you see any difference between 2018 and now? You were state party chief in 2018.
- The difference is that now we are fighting as an incumbent. The last time when we fought as an incumbent, when we had a congress chief minister in 2013, we came down to 21 seats in the 200-member assembly. From 21 to go to the majority mark in five years was a constant struggle. As far as my role now concern, I am working as hard as I can to ensure that the party wins.
- How united is the Congress, given the backdrop of bitterness we you and Gehlot.
- I raised some issues that needed to be addressed. I am glad that the AICC took cognisance of those issues. For example, paper leaks. The AICC leadership recognised it is, an important issue and directed the Rajasthan government to take steps. It is not about individuals as much about the organisation and the congress party’s prospects in the elections.
- So you are putting all the bitterness behind.
- Some unkind words were said about me. But I don’t want to dwell on that. I have always believed that a certain level of decorum should be maintained in our discourse in public life, and I have never responded in kind. As Khargeji and Rahulji advised me, it is important to forget, forgive and move on.
- Have your demands with regard to paper leak and corruption in the Vasundhara Raje government been met fully ?
A.I raised these issues because they were important to be considered since we were going to polls. Some legal recourse was sought on some of the issues. Issues like reforming the Public Service Commission—we couldn’t do it in time because elections were declared, and one of the appointments made recently, just one day before elections were announced, was an individual for whom the chief minister had to apologise for making that appointment.
- The BJP has no CM face and their campaign is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- Modi had led the campaign in 2018, too. We saw that happening in Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka also. The BJP is getting pulled in many directions and they are going back and forth and as far as their campaign strategy is concerned. The BJP is hoping that by default they will get to win the state, but that is not the case. (IPA Service)