Congress can pull off a 2004-like sur­prise: Pilot

‘To­day it is dif­fer­ent. In­dian pol­i­tics is so un­pre­dictable’

The Hindu - - THE HUDDLE - Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

The PM and his Min­is­ters have not been able to con­vince peo­ple that there was no wrong­do­ing in the Rafale deal

Ex­press­ing con­fi­dence that the Congress could pull off a “2004-like” sur­prise in the Lok Sabha elec­tion, Ra­jasthan Deputy Chief Min­is­ter Sachin Pilot said the vic­tor in the polls would be the party that an­swered “tough ques­tions” from the vot­ers.

“130 crore peo­ple have been watch­ing for the last four years, not getting an­swers to their ques­tions and it won’t be sur­pris­ing if there is a fall for the mighty BJP as they call them­selves. There is no way the BJP can hold onto all the seats they won last time,” said Mr. Pilot, ad­mit­ting that the Congress’s dis­as­trous per­for­mance in 2014 meant his party had to “re­build and re­ori­ent” it­self.

“Peo­ple were just not will­ing to vote for us in 2014. But to­day it is dif­fer­ent. In­dian pol­i­tics is so un­pre­dictable. No­body thought that Va­j­pay­eeji would lose [in 1999] by one vote. And in 2004, no­body thought the Congress will form the govern­ment…so I think it is pos­si­ble [to repeat the out­come],” Mr. Pilot said in an in­ter­ac­tion with Amit Baruah, Res­i­dent Ed­i­tor of The Hindu.

Asked about al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion against Congress lead­ers, Mr. Pilot said no charges had been proved in the past few years with the NDA in power, but the govern­ment had en­sured that “no leader from the BJP” was pros­e­cuted in cases pur­sued by the CBI and the ED. He also said the Rafale case could have an im­pact in the poll.

“The PM and his Min­is­ters have not been able to con­vince peo­ple that there was no wrong­do­ing in the Rafale deal. Ear­lier, it was brushed off as Congress pro­pa­ganda. What is com­ing out to­day means that no one is con­vinced by the an­swers,” he said, re­fer­ring to doc­u­ments on the is­sue that have ap­peared in The Hindu and in re­ports by other news or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Asked about the im­pact of Congress pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi’s sis­ter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra be­ing made party gen­eral sec­re­tary, Mr. Pilot said what was clear is the im­pact of the move on the rul­ing party. On Mon­day, Ms. Gandhi is ex­pected to make her first ap­pear­ance in Ut­tar Pradesh af­ter be­ing ap­pointed.

“The fact that Priyanka Gandhi has been made party gen­eral sec­re­tary...why is it giv­ing the BJP such heart­burn? She has not been made Chief Min­is­ter or Gover­nor or given an of­fice of profit. She has a job in the party, but the kind of po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty it has caused for the rul­ing party is telling me that they have a rea­son to fear,” he said.

Asked if the Congress, which is not part of the Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party (BSP) and Sa­ma­jwadi Party (SP) al­liance in the State, would agree to make a leader from the al­liance like BSP chief Mayawati, who is a Dalit, the Prime Min­is­ter, he said such sce­nar­ios are “hy­po­thet­i­cal at present.”

“What is in­ter­est­ing is that peo­ple are now will­ing to con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity that Prime Min­is­ter Modi may not re­turn to power,” adding that the Congress, which had ap­pointed “the first woman Pres­i­dent and the first Dalit Pres­i­dent, was pro-women and pro-Dalit.”

Mr. Pilot brushed off a ques­tion on in­fight­ing in the Congress as well as re­ports of ten­sions be­tween him and Ra­jasthan Chief Min­is­ter Ashok Gehlot.

“I am the third gen­er­a­tion of a fauji [army sol­dier], so when I was told what the party lead­er­ship wanted me to do, I just thought about how I have to do this,” he said. To a ques­tion from the au­di­ence about whether “a Pilot or any non Gandhi” could be­come a Congress Prime Min­is­ter, Mr. Pilot said that in its his­tory, the Congress had ap­pointed many Prime Min­is­ters and party pres­i­dents who were not mem­bers of the Gandhi fam­ily, and cred­ited Mr. Gandhi with giv­ing many young peo­ple party posts.

K. MU­RALI KU­MAR ■

Sachin Pilot with Amit Baruah, Res­i­dent Ed­i­tor, The Hindu, Delhi.

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