It has been four years since the Narendra Modi-led NDA government came to power at the Centre after decimating the Congress. As the Congress tries to claw back its way back, former Union minister and Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot speaks to ASHHAR KHAN regarding the betrayals of the Central government and chances of his party coming back to power in Rajasthan where polls are expected to be held at the end of the year. Excerpts from an interview:
It has been four years since the Central government came to power. How do you see its performance?
The Congress party across the country is observing vishwasghat diwas (betrayal day). In the last four years, the Central government completely squandered the mandate that was accorded to it by the people of this country. The strange part is that after four years the BJP finds itself in a position where no section of society is happy with its performance. That is something that we, as the principal Opposition party, are going to highlight all over the country. In my state, Rajasthan, this will start on May 26, and we will carry it well into the month of June so that people know how the government has failed and that it is time for change. Not only at the Centre but also at the state level.
Where all do you think the government has not been able to deliver?
Well, the list is long and I do not know where to start. Let me just speak of Rajasthan first and let me just restrict it to Kota division that happens to be the home division of the state chief minister. It is shocking that more than 140 farmers have committed suicide in that area so far. The BJP was talking big about farmers but its track record has been abysmal. I raised the issue that agricultural implements should not be under the ambit of GST. But the insensitive government did not pay any heed. The Congress demanded a complete loan waiver for the farmers after which the state government appointed a committee to look into it. The state government has now come out with a faulty loan waiver scheme that makes it amply clear that the real intention of the Vasundhra Raje government is just to hoodwink farmers not help them. At present, there is a lot of stress on the farming community, be it farmers, farm workers or labourers. The ancillary industry associated with farming has also been affected.
The problems aggravated with the hasty rollout of GST and demonetisation. For the farming community that was already facing a lot of stress, this came as a rude shock. I have been touring the state intensively and the situation is same for framers everywhere.
The Congress and you also talk about unfulfilled promises. Could you elaborate what these promises are?
In its manifesto, the BJP had promised minimum support price plus 50 per cent. Now where is the MSP and where is the 50 per cent. Since the farmer is not getting a fair price for his yield, how can he pay for his expenses? The problem is not limited to this state alone.
Further, the procurement agencies are in collusion with the private players and delay procurement. So, even fixing MSP doesn’t serve much purpose. The entire ecosystem has to be addressed.
According to the NCRB data, every 41 minutes a farmer commits suicide. Spontaneous agitations have been breaking out in several states. This government is basically about publicity, amplification and propaganda. It doesn’t have any concrete steps or measures to resolve the issues. Look at the economic situation of the country. Hasty implementation of GST and demonetisation has dealt a severe blow to the small and medium trader. The BJP promised about two crore jobs per annum but failed here too. The strange part is that almost Rs 1,60,786 crore have been collected by the government as part of the education cess in the last four years. No one knows how has this amount been reinvested in the sector. On the contrary the budget for UGC has been reduced. These are the unfulfilled promises that we have been talking about.
The BJP feels that it has done commendable work and things have been set in motion. However, the party also wants another term at the Centre...
I want to ask the BJP where are the Rs 15 lakh that were promised in the election speeches in 2014. We have seen how people defrauding the banks have left the country while the government acted as a mute spectator. All this happened due to omission or commission by the government.
Where is the need for another term when they have let down the people once? Secondly, if you look at Rajasthan, the chief minister brought in a kala kanoon (a bill to protect corrupt officials and muzzle media) which was eventually removed after we made a state-wide protest. Even at the Centre they brought in a law to muzzle the media but when there was a huge hue and cry the government backed off. Essentially, the government is obfuscating as it has nothing to show for its four years in power.
In Rajasthan, elections are round the corner. Several surveys have come that put your party in a commendable position. Do you believe them?
Lts’s keep the surveys aside. Let’s see how chief minister Vasundhra Raje Scindia has betrayed the trust of people. This Rajasthan government came with perhaps the largest mandate and it achieved nothing.
Rajasthan is among the top three states in the indices of crime against women and dalits. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the difference between the BJP and the Congress voteshare was 26 per cent. In the recently-concluded local body elections as well as Parliament and Assembly by-elections we have managed to bridge this gap. The various surveys say that the Congress is surging ahead. I want to tell the BJP that propaganda and advertisements cannot take you very far.
People can themselves judge the Central government on different parameters, be it internal security, job creation, economic indices or the rural economy.
Let’s talk about fuel prices if the Centre is not reducing them can’t the state governments do it? The BJP has governments in 19 states. But the policies of the BJP are against the common man.
Would you be contesting the Assembly elections scheduled later this year?
These decisions are taken by the leadership of the Congress. I will contest, if the high command and the party wants me to.