Where were the BJP hotshots when Rajasthan needed them during droughts, floods, lynching and farmer suicides in past five years, asks PCC chief Sachin Pilot as PM Narendra Modi and his ministers go around seeking votes in the state. Crisscrossing constituencies in a chopper and by road from morning till late night in India’s largest state, Pilot tells TOI’s Bhanu Pratap Singh why Congress is confident of people’s support for it.
BJP claims it is gaining ground in Rajasthan as the poll date in nearing. Is it true?
It’s an absolute false propaganda. What could have the BJP done in last 4-5 days when it couldn’t do anything in 4 years and 11 months? People remember the misery and bad governance Vasundhara ji gave them. To claim that calling few leaders from Delhi and making speeches has changed the impression about the Vasundhara government is a fantasy that the BJP wants to live in. I have sympathy with them. Trying to create false propaganda through media, public speeches and spending money is just gimmickry. For five years, none of the big BJP leaders came to Rajasthan to share people’s sorrow and pain. There was drought and flood, there were rapes and killings, there was acrimony and social unrest, there was mob lynching and cow vigilante violence, but not a single BJP leader came forward at that point. Now, to suddenly come and claim that public meetings are changing the narrative, is an absolute misconception that the BJP is living under.
Vasundhara Raje says there is no anti-incumbency; it’s a mala fide perception that is being propagated. What do you say?
Vasundhara ji has faced the public wrath from day one. She remained cut off from the common citizens for five years. In her Gaurav Yatra, she had to abandon the bus and take the helicopter route because people on the roads were agitating. Nobody is still allowed to wear any black clothing in her rallies because she is afraid the people will start waiving these at her. There is heavy anti-Vasundhara sloganeering in every rally; the BJP doesn’t know how to face people and ask for votes. Anti-incumbency was reflected in every single election—panchayat, zila parishad, nagar palika, assembly and parliamentary by-elections.
The CM says she initiated development but needs more time to completely change the state’s picture. Is a five-year term really short for political parties to fulfill their promises to people?
If it is long enough for governments that have done it before, why is it short for her? If she had started working from day one, results would have been there to see. Other governments had worked and were voted back but because of her negligence, arrogance and policies that she followed — catering to very few people, over centralization of power, focusing only on allocation of mines, propagating elements like sand and liquor mafia — people won’t give her another term. I think it’s the lamest excuse to say five years are not enough.
Compared to BJP’s fleet of Modi, Shah, Yogi and Rajnath as its star campaigners, Congress has mainly Rahul Gandhi holding election rallies in Rajasthan. Is that a strategy or complacency about victory?
People you have named are in power — prime minister, party chief, chief minister and home minister. Where were they when Rajasthan needed them? They could have given Rajasthan a special package, some big projects and funding for water projects. But they did not because there was a massive tiff between Vasundhara ji and the leadership in Delhi. Rajasthan people suffered because of that. Them coming now is too little too late.
Will the ongoing elections in five states have a bearing on Rahul Gandhi’s leadership? Will people’s perception about him change?
Rahul ji has been leading from the front, asking tough questions, making the Modi government and BJP accountable both inside and outside the Parliament. This energizes not only the Congress workers but also the opposition party leaders. Let’s face it, he is the only one who is challenging the Modi government and making them (BJP leaders) uncomfortable. Not just the Congress but the entire country has realised that he is one man who is not afraid to speak out and is willing to take big risks for the sake of raising the common man’s voice.
Rajasthan elections were fairly away from religious debates until now but in these election even leaders like CP Joshi made remarks on caste and religion. Rahul Gandhi said Modi doesn’t understand Hinduism. Has religion become a poll issue in Rajasthan and rest of India?
What is more significant is BJP leaders like Yogi came here and talked about which caste Hanuman ji belonged to. People who have taken oath of the constitution must be aware of what they say. BJP wants to change the narrative to religion, caste, gotra, Hindu-Muslim, Mandir-Masjid; they don’t talk about growth, jobs, farmer suicides or price rise. They are avoiding these issues because they have nothing to show as achievement.
Is Congress doing politics of reaction? If BJP talks about temples, cows or religion, Congress also gets involved, keeping aside the public issues?
If you have seen the Rajasthan Congress manifesto, we have squarely focused on issues that mattered to the common person. Young people, education, healthcare, farmers’ pensions and farm loan waiver. BJP leaders have tried to take the focus away from core issues, but we brought them back.
BJP keeps saying Congress is run by just one family, the Gandhis.
What’s your answer?
What I find most amusing is, the prime minister talks about dynastic politics having Vasundhara ji by his side! Her mother was a politician, she is a politician, her sisters are politicians and her son is a politician. He (Modi) does not see dynasty politics in Vasundhara Raje and her family or in Raman Singh whose son is an MP or in Shivraj ji whose wife was an MLA. How can one be so blatantly ignorant of the facts?
Congress is one of the most democratic parties unlike the BJP, which is now a one-man show. Rahul Gandhi has inculcated a sense of discussion and debate in Congress. The Congress has survived for 130 years because it has leaders from all parts of the country that are given due importance and weightage. We don’t have a “marg-darshak mandal” that puts party’s old leaders in cold-storage. People who formed and built BJP have been sidelined for no reason at all. That’s the kind of work culture BJP has.
Another allegation by BJP is that Congress bred corruption in the country. It also says PM Narendra Modi is wiping out corruption, so Congress is in pain. What do you have to say?
When BJP has the Vypam scam, Lalit Modi scam, Vijay Mallya scam, Mehul Chowksi scam, Neerav Modi scam and all the money is looted under the current government, it does not see that as corruption. How long will the BJP keep blaming Congress? We were in opposition for last five years, it is up to the BJP to answer why the NPAs increased to Rs 12 lakh crore. By alleging, you can make political rhetoric but on the ground, you have to show performance and delivery. The BJP has not done that so far.
How will the Congress government, if it is formed, be different from the present BJP government?
It will not be a dictatorial government. It will be a people’s government. It will not be over centralized. It will not sponsor and nurture corruption. Unlike the gag order or the black bill that Vasundhara ji tried to implement, we have introduced a provision in our manifesto about the journalist protection Act. We are going to make our society more open and transparent. We will have lawyers protection Act too. Our government will be people-friendly and people-centric; a true people’s government, as opposed to the government run from ‘mahals’ and ‘havelis’.
Congress has announced what relief it will give to farmers, but how will the party meet people’s expectations about generating jobs and helping smalltime businesses?
Job generation will be our top priority. The degrees and diploma currently being offered don’t meet needs of the corporate sector. The industrial sector and the academic community must collaborate to design curriculums and courses that will train young people in skills for which employers want to hire them. Second, Rajasthan currently does not have an investment climate because of mob lynching, cow vigilantism, caste conflict, encounters, rapes, Dalit and tribal issues. If we have a good administrative system, investments will come in. Third, we should stop chasing multinational companies. They will come here just for profit seeking but home grown Rajasthani entrepreneurs have love for the people and really want to give back to the land. Even if they don’t make a huge profit, they will contribute in creating jobs. We will change the environment.
How many seats is the Congress expecting to win in Rajasthan?
How many seats will its allies win?
I can’t predict but from my five years of travel and my feedback, I will tell it the other way round — I can say BJP will not cross 50 seats. Modi, Shah, Yogi and everybody in BJP is trying to pretend that there are no differences with Vasundhara ji and are trying to show a united face by putting their entire might, money, resources and machinery, only to salvage the situation to a point where BJP’s loss looks at least respectable. They see the writing on the wall that people will vote them out but they are doing this all just to get some respectable numbers in their failure. But having said that, their efforts will go in vain. People have decided not only to elect the Congress but also to teach BJP a lesson.
Source: Times of India