After two days of hectic parleys the Congress has appointed the state unit chief of Rajasthan. Sachin Pilot as the deputy chief minister of the state. Mr Pilot speaks to ASHHAR KHAN on the fiercely fought election and the new challenges facing him.
Congratulations Mr Pilot! You have been appointed the deputy chief minister of the state. Do you think there was a power tussle and you wanted to become the chief minister?
Well I am a loyal soldier of the party. I have never ran or hankered after posts. It was the decision of the party and I just followed it. Rahul Gandhi, the party president, asked me to take over as deputy chief minister. I will do it on Monday when everybody including the chief minister is being sworn in. The Congress faced a rout here in the last Assembly elections. We were down to almost 20 MLAs out of 199. Then also, the party asked me to become the state unit president. Today I am happy that all the workers and leaders of the party gave their heart and soul and the party is once again back in power.
Do you think that there was a power tussle between the young turks like you and the old guard that is why it took so long to announce the chief ministerial candidates?
The results came in by the night of December 11 and the morning of December 12 and the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh was announced on December 13 and the chief minister and deputy chief minister of Rajasthan were announced on December 14. So at best, it took two days. As I said earlier, I am not running after posts. Whatever the role the party and the leadership decides for me I go ahead and do the job.
How do you see the results of these Assembly elections?
There is a clear mandate that has been given by the people against the BJP in these three states. The writing is clear on the wall: The BJP has not been able to keep the trust of people. Don’t forget where we started from. We were 21 MLAs five years ago. We have increased our tally from 21 to over a 100, a clear mandate. In five years, we have been winning every single by-election. So obviously our workers were quite motivated. This is a clear mandate. There was no confusion in the minds of the people. A clear mandate was what we were expecting and we got that. I thank the people, party leaders and Rahul Gandhi who led from the front.
Don’t you think the Congress could have done a little better in these elections in Rajasthan? Was there a problem in ticket distribution as lots of rebel candidates have won?
As I said earlier, we should not forget that we started with 21 MLAs. Slowly but steadily we have reached this point. Every time, there are some independents and smaller parties. The BSP has got a few seats, the CPI(M) has got a few seats, local parties have got two or three seats. We had also given some tickets to our alliance partners. Our rainbow coalition easily defeated the NDA. The fact of the matter is that Vasundhara Raje ji had betrayed the trust of the people of Rajasthan even after getting a huge mandate. People had already decided to vote for the Congress and it is not merely anti-incumbency. It is a positive vote on the basis of the hope that people have from us. So all of us knew well in advance that the Congress is coming back to power. Even if you look at the campaign of the BJP, they had no issues to speak about. They were talking non-issues that had no bearing on the lives of ordinary citizens of the state and that is why the results are in front of you.
Do you think these elections also send a signal against the central government? The BJP was hoping for Modi magic to work. Did that happen?
It was a vote against the people in power in Jaipur and in Delhi. Both the governments had anti-poor and anti-farmer policies both at the centre and at the state levels. We cannot separate the two. Mr Modi came to Dausa to end the campaign. The Congress has won four of the five seats in Dausa. They put every bit of effort, every ounce of energy and resources in Rajasthan in the last 10 days. And the results are there. They have lost almost a 100 seats where the party had come to power five years ago. Whenever the BJP wins, it is attributed to the so called pathbreaking policies of the central government, so similarly the vote in these five Assembly elections was also against the policies of the central government. The Lok Sabha election is round the corner in these three states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and the Congress and the BJP will be in a bipolar contest. The BJP is sure to face a rout in the Lok Sabha polls too. I want to tell the BJP that propaganda advertisements can only take you so far. As far as the BJP is concerned, they have nothing to show for their five years in power. So all this last minute heavy artillery by the BJP did not cut much ice with the Rajasthan voter. The BJP also tried to polarise the atmosphere in the state.
Now as the Congress has come in government, what changes will you all propose?
Firstly, the Congress government is a pro-people government. It will always be with the people. Our leadership has asked both the chief minister Ashok Gehlot and me to ensure that we immediately start implementing out manifesto. The Congress manifesto in Rajasthan is a vision document that was prepared after consultations with all sections of society and the Congress is committed to ensure that it is implemented. All the issues of farmers, small business, youth and unemployment will dealt with on an urgent basis. There has already been misgovernance for the last five years. It is a huge responsibility that has befallen on my shoulders and I along with my colleagues will rise up to the challenge.
In the last couple of years, your state has become a hotbed of violence. How do you propose to handle that?
The rule of law, the majesty of law, should always prevail. Nobody should be allowed to take the law into their own hands. Unfortunately, certain incidents have taken place that have raised a lot of questions on the state of law and order prevailing under the BJP government in Rajasthan. This is nothing but a complete failure of the state government for not reigning in the fringe elements. Sometimes it would appear that there is a tacit understanding with these groups who were fomenting trouble in the state. These incidents bring a bad name to the state internationally and it affects our tourism industry and the business sentiments prevailing in the state. Under our government we will ensure that such incidents don’t take place and the state remains safe for all its residents.