RAJASTHAN: Q&A WITH SACHIN PILOT
SACHIN PILOT took charge of the Rajasthan state Congress two months after the party was reduced to 21 seats in the 200-seat assembly in the 2013 polls. Two months later, the party failed to win even one of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the general elections. Four years down the line, though, among the three heartland states going to polls, experts say the Congress has the best chance of winning in Rajasthan. Excerpts from an interview with Kaushik Deka
Q. What are the primary issues in this election? Vasundhara Raje got a massive mandate in 2013. With that, she could have changed the face of Rajasthan, but she has only let down the people. We are fighting the polls with a threepoint agenda. Relief to our farmers from the big agrarian crisis; creating jobs, because growth without jobs means nothing; and decentralising governance. The Raje government has been completely autocratic where everything is controlled by the chief minister’s office. Nothing moves in the state without bribes. Our government will be a people’s government.
Q. What do you mean “nothing moves without bribes"? Corruption has been institutionalised in Rajasthan. There was a mining scam where the government allocated 100,000 bighas of mines to 650 mine owners just the night before the auctions were supposed to happen. Thanks to our intervention, the chief minister was forced to withdraw the allotment. To silence voices against corruption, the Raje government brought in an ordinance, which said that one could not report on any accusation against a public servant till the prosecution got a goahead from the sanctioning authority. This, too, had to be withdrawn following massive protests.
Q. The Congress is a divided house. Who will be the CM, Ashok Gehlot or Sachin Pilot?
It’s the party policy to put ideology and party ahead of personalities. If the Congress had been a divided house, we would not have won 20 of the 22 assembly bypolls in the past four years.
Q. Some party workers have been demanding that Gehlot be made CM candidate. Will you accept him as chief minister?
Gehlot himself has made it clear that this will be decided by the elected MLAs and the Congress national leadership if we get a majority in the polls. We are not seeking individual rewards. I was 26 when I became an MP. At 31, I became a Union minister and at 35, I was asked to lead the party in Rajasthan. I’m looking at giving back to the party.
Q. Will you accept the decision if Gehlot is chosen CM?
You are now speculating.
Q. You claim there are 4.2 million duplicate voters on the rolls.
The Election Commission website has the list. We have found 4.2 million incidents in which the name of the voter, his age and his father’s name are the same. It cannot be coincidence. There are thousands of addresses with 100 voters in the same address. The People’s Representation Act says if there are more than 10 voters in one address, the election commission has to do physical verification. There are 100,000 people with the same election ID number.
Q. You have been demanding a loan waiver for farmers in Rajasthan. Is that the only solution the Congress has to offer on farmers’ distress?
The BJP governments in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have waived the loans of farmers. In our state, 155 farmers have committed suicide. Why aren't they doing the same in Rajasthan? I agree that a loan waiver is not the only solution to agrarian problems. But in the current situation, it’s an important tool to help our farmers start afresh. Raje has not found half an hour to visit any of the families of those who have committed suicide. I have personally been to see more than 100 families.
Q. The Congress is reportedly facing a severe funds crisis. Is it affecting your election preparedness?
Money is important, but it isn’t the only thing. I have seen the amounts the BJP spent during the byelections, yet they lost. Beyond resources, people must also accept what you say and stand for.