‘We will win with a thumping majority’
AFTER the defeat of the Congress in the 2013 Assembly elections and the subsequent Lok Sabha elections, the Congress leadership made Sachin Pilot Pradesh Congress president in order to rejuvenate the party in the State. As the principal opposition party in the State, the Congress has reason to be optimistic given the outcome of the recent byelections in which it secured major victories. In an interview to Frontline, Sachin Pilot, who is contesting from Tonk constituency, said that the mood of the electorate was favourable to the Congress and that he was optimistic about the electoral outcome. Excerpts:
The Congress has worked hard to raise the voice of the people. The Vasundhara Raje government came to power with a large majority, and so did the BJP at the Centre. But the BJP betrayed the trust of the people. Several farmers have committed suicide. Young people were promised jobs. Not only is there an agrarian crisis, but rampant unemployment as well. There is also a perception that this government has been an arrogant one.
We have not just unmasked the corruption of the BJP but given a positive road map for the future. The Congress represents a new start for Rajasthan where farmers will get their due and youths will get jobs, not jumlas. The blueprint is something that excites people.
Rajasthan needs to focus on many core areas—textiles, mining, gems and jewellery, handicrafts, cash crop exports. It has also the potential to become an IT centre. Job creation has to be done.
But the government is lacking in will power. It has been chasing multinationals. Rajasthani entrepreneurs and businessmen who have done well elsewhere have to be encouraged. But bureaucratic hurdles have created problems for them. There is a need to focus on making the atmosphere positive. But when you have mob lynching, hate crimes and communities warring against each other, who would want to come? The average number of rapes a day in Rajasthan is 13. Law and order has collapsed. When there is social acrimony, no growth can happen.
The labour reforms of the Vasundhara Raje government were in violation of norms. The Union Labour Minister said in Parliament that they violated the International Labour Organisation [ILO] mandate which stipulates consultations with stakeholders. It was a dictatorial order, only to please the pink papers. The ILO said the reforms had no connection with the ground reality. The atmosphere in the State is vitiated. The BJP has tried to harm communal harmony. Rajasthan was a peace-loving State. Miscreants are being encouraged. Now, we have several cases of hate crime and lynching. They have tried religious polarisation or tried to replicate what I call the Uttar Pradesh template, but the people are going to reject this. People are sensible and will not be persuaded by the mandir-masjid debate.
The media are focussing on religious issues. Five years ago, when Dr Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister, why was there no focus on who was visiting temples, churches or gurdwaras. Why are the media not focussing on demonetisation, agrarian crisis, goods and services tax, price rise, etc.? It is the BJP that is talking about non-issues; we are pretty much focussed.
The Congress is united. If the party was not united, how would we have emerged so strong? For five years I have worked under the leadership of the party president and we have emerged united and stronger. If there was factionalism, how would we have won 20 of the 22 byelections, right from the panchayat upwards. It is all BJP propaganda. In fact, if at all there is groupism, it is in the BJP, between Vasundhara ji and Amit Shah [BJP president].
I cannot predict the number of seats but I can tell you we will win with a thumping majority.
We have taken the support of all non-BJP parties, non-governmental and other organisations. A few days ago, four young people committed suicide. All of us are together on these issues, including issues such as farmers’ suicides. Besides, everyone is free to fight elections.