NDTV caught up with Sachin Pilot on the campaign trail to discuss the Rajasthan election and Congress’ game-plan, and his relationship with Ashok Gehlot.
Three years ago, Congress leader and ex-Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot made headlines – for leading a rebellion that nearly brought down his party’s government in the state.
Fast-forward to today and an energetic Mr Pilot is on the frontlines of a re-election bid, fighting (in apparent lock-step) with Chief Minister and long-time rival Ashok Gehlot, to ensure the Congress trumps the BJP and retains power in a state that has not voted for an incumbent in three decades.
NDTV caught up with Sachin Pilot on the campaign trail – as he jumped in and out of helicopters – to discuss the November 25th election and the Congress’ game-plan, and his relationship with Mr Gehlot.
“Double engine… double engine. What double engine?” Mr Pilot thundered at one rally, making pointed swipes at the BJP’s promise of development for states that vote for the saffron party in both Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, “One engine failed in Himachal Pradesh… another in Karnataka.”
The Congress is confident of a positive result in Rajasthan and a NDTV pre-poll survey last month suggests they have cause for optimism; 76 per cent of voters seem satisfied with its government.
On Congress’ Chances
“The party is energised. We have never won back-to-back Rajasthan elections. Our attempt now is to break this cycle of a revolving door (and) we are well-placed to do that. There is a change of mood.”
“The key is delivery of social welfare schemes. If people don’t feel you are credible… they won’t believe in you. In Karnataka we delivered immediately…” Mr Pilot said, underlining the Congress’ game-plan – to bank on the Ashok Gehlot government’s welfare schemes to pull in the votes.
“We are looking at social welfare and also investment and wealth creation (for the people of Rajasthan). We need an equitable Rajasthan… we need to give youth opportunities.”
On Chief Ministerial Race
However, amid speculation Mr Pilot could finally be named Chief Minister (should the Congress win this election), the NDTV pre-poll survey also indicated less than 10 per cent want him in that post.
Understandably, Mr Pilot was keen to play down any such talk.
“In the Congress, whenever party (central) leadership takes a call then that is final,” he told NDTV, “It is a long-standing tradition (that) we don’t declare a CM face. We are a national party and we don’t have just one face. Once we get the mandate, then it is up to the MLAs to decide.”
On Feud With Ashok Gehlot
“It is in the past…” Mr Pilot said when he was asked the big question. “We met (Congress boss Mallikarjun) Kharge and (Rahul) Gandhi… the party took cognisance (of my concerns),” he said. “The party high command told me to forgive and forget, and move on.”
In July too, Sachin Pilot had offered to “forgive and forget” the free-for-all exchange of barbs Mr Gehlot and he had exchanged. “If there is a little back and forth, then it is not a big issue because the party and the public are more important than any individual,” he told PTI in an exclusive interview.
“My focus now is to work together… there is no personal animosity. We haven’t won consecutive elections in Rajasthan for 30 years. Why? We need to introspect on this,” he told NDTV today.