Congress can pull off a 2004-like surprise: Pilot
‘Today it is different. Indian politics is so unpredictable’
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.
Sachin Pilot with Amit Baruah, Resident Editor, The Hindu, Delhi.