The BJP realises that it does not have answers to the questions being raised by the people, says Sachin Pilot.
Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot has his task cut out to bring his party back to power in the state. With less than a week left for polling, Mr Pilot takes time out from his hectic campaigning schedule and speaks to Ashhar Khan .
Polling is just around the corner. How do you see the chances of the Congress?
It is not for me to say but for you to see. I have seen several elections in the state but the desire of the people to replace the current government is acute. Never in the history of the state has the public been so disenchanted. We, that is the Congress, has been the principal Opposition party in the state, we have held yatras, dharnas and rallies against the anti-people policies of the state government. But in its arrogance, the state government paid no heed to the issues of the people at large raised by us. So now it is clear from every nook and corner of Rajasthan that the Congress will form the government on December 11 when the results are announced. Our template is very simple — deliver what you promise and take everybody along on the path of progress and development. This will ensure that we decimate the BJP in the state.
The Congress did not manage to sew up an alliance with the BSP in the state. Does it bother you?
Well, we have given five seats to our alliance partners in the state. These include Ajit Singh ji’s RLD, Sharad Yadav ji’s party and the NCP. This rainbow coalition will easily defeat the NDA. The fact of the matter is that the current chief minister Vasundhara Raje ji has betrayed the trust of the people of Rajasthan even after getting a huge mandate. People have 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. We have reached out to people in every booth and heard their grievances. The Congress has done the Mera Booth Mera Gaurav programme in 196 constituencies. We have done district-level meetings, Sankalp Rallies, roadshows, farmers’ rallies. Rahul Gandhi has visited the state several times. It is now amply clear that the people want the Congress firmly back at the helm in the state.
The top national leaders of the BJP are campaigning. Some of them are raking up the issue of the Ram Temple. Do you think they are trying to polarise the state?
The BJP realises that it does not have answers to the questions being raised by the people. Attempts (to polarise) will always be there because these are desperate times for the BJP. They will leave nothing to chance, they will try and polarise, they will try and communalise, they will rake up issues of irrelevance and twist statements. The young generation of today wants opportunities and the days of communal and caste politics are gone. If you remember that there was a parliamentary by-election in Alwar earlier this year, the BJP tried to polarise once again. The result was that its candidate lost by over two lakh votes.
You were at the forefront of the farmers’ agitation in the state. How do you propose to solve the problems of farmers when you come to power?
Presently there is a lot of stress on the farming community. This includes farmers, landless farmers, farm workers and labourers. Also the ancillary industries associated with it. This has been aggravated by the hasty roll out of the GST or Gabbar Singh Tax and Demonetisation. As it is, the farming community was facing hardships and this has come as a rude shock to them. I have been touring the state intensively. There is no district or town that I have not visited, the situation is the same for farmers all along. The BJP in its manifesto had promised Minimum Support Price plus 50 per cent. Now where is the MSP and where is the 50 per cent. The farmer is not getting a fair price for his yield so how does he pay for his expenses? If you go and see our manifesto you will see a detailed roadmap for agriculture and farmers. We have to give them relief from the financial crisis that farmers are currently facing in Rajasthan. But it has to be done right in the beginning and the whole ecosystem of access to credit and market, agricultural imports, seeds, fertilisers and technology has to be recalibrated. We will do that as soon as we take charge in Rajasthan.
You have now been the party chief in the state for almost five years. Do you see changes in the fortunes of the Congress?
When I started out, in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, the difference between the BJP and us as far as vote share is concerned was 26 per cent. Presently, after the local body elections and the by-elections of the Parliament and the state Assembly that were recently concluded, we have bridged the gap. I want to tell the BJP that propaganda and 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.
Apart from farmer issues, your state Rajasthan has become a hotbed of violence in the name of Gau Raksha and hate crimes. What’s your take?
Unfortunately, certain incidents have taken place that have raised a lot of questions on the state of law and order prevailing under the present BJP government in Rajasthan. This is nothing but a complete failure of the state government for not reining in the fringe elements. In fact, it seems that the chief minister Vasundhra ji is not being able to control these elements or they have a tacit understanding with these groups who are loosely attached to the ruling dispensation. In both cases, the state government has much to answer as these incidents are reported internationally and it brings negative effects on our tourism industry and business sentiment.
Usually the Prime Minister does an action packed last round of campaigning that tilts the scales in favour of the BJP. How are you going to counter that?
Well, both the Prime Minister and the BJP national president are campaigning in the state. The fact remains that they have to answer to the people about the track record of the Vasundhara Raje government. You cannot attack the Congress here because at some point he has to defend the CM’s record. Her report card is there for people to see. When Amit Shah ji comes to Rajasthan, he knows that he has no way of defending Vasundhara ji’s report card of five years. Therefore, alleging things about other parties is a very common tool of the BJP, as they have no answers for the current CM’s five years of misgovernance. For 75 days, the BJP in Rajasthan was headless because Amit Shah and Vasundhara Raje couldn’t agree on the name for the party’s state president. So all this last minute heavy artillery by the BJP will not break much ice with Rajasthan voters.