RA­JASTHAN: Q&A WITH SACHIN PILOT

India Today - - STATES -

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.

JAISON G

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