With Rajasthan High Court set to pronounce on Friday its verdict on a petition by Sachin Pilot and 18 rebel Congress MLAs, challenging disqualification proceedings against them, Chief Minister ASHOK GEHLOT tells MANOJ C G what went wrong, and how. Excerpts:
The crisis in Rajasthan has put a question mark on your government. How stable is it?
The crisis is not on account of anything related to performance of the state government. This problem has been created by over-ambition of Shri Sachin Pilot and a small group of MLAs of my party who are playing in the hands of the BJP. The Congress government in Rajasthan has a comfortable majority in the Assembly. We also enjoy support of the people. So the government is fully stable and will complete its full term.
Are you thinking of going for a floor test to prove your majority?
We are not shying away from anything which the democratic processes may require at any point in time. If required, we are ready for a floor test and will win it with a thumping majority.
Why do you think Pilot went against you?
As I have already stated, he is engaged in misadventurism – a result of his undesirable over-ambition. The party and the government in Rajasthan had given him positions which are much more than what one can validly aspire at this early stage of life as compared to his contribution to the party. Moreover, things should have been raised by him within the framework of party discipline and procedures.
Can the Gehlot-Pilot relationship be mended now? If yes, how? If no, what is the implication for the government and Congress politics in the state?
Much would depend on his future course of action and the decision of party high command. I have been active in politics for more than 40 years and seen ground realities of Rajasthan more than anyone else in state Congress. Based on affection and public support, I can say that the Congress will continue to be the party the people will look up to for its track record of commitment to development, pro-poor stance, good governance, etc.
Does Sachin Pilot have a place in your government and Rajasthan politics if he returns now?
This would depend upon the future course of action by Shri Pilot and the decision by the Congress high command. I will welcome (him) if he decides to again repose his faith in the Congress.
Never before, or at least not in recent past, in Indian politics have we seen an FIR filed against a deputy chief minister with sedition charges. Why did you do that?
The complaint regarding horse-trading does not contain any names. Let the law take its own course.
When you became CM, did the Congress central leadership tell you there will be a change of guard after three-and-a-half or four years?
There have been countless speculations in some sections of the media without any basis.
…Or was it a given that you will be CM for whole five years?
There are set procedures to determine which leader of the party with majority in the Assembly has support of the maximum number of elected party MLAs. Decisions in various political parties are taken accordingly. Thus any aspiration otherwise is not valid.
You have said Pilot has been plotting against your government for some months. Did you bring it to the notice of the Congress central leadership?
There is a well-established communication system within parties. We are constantly in touch with the leadership. The issues related to Sachin Pilot-ji are being handled as per the standard procedure of the party. We will abide by the party high command’s decision.
What is the basis for your allegations (against Pilot)?
I have been receiving inputs to this effect for more than six months. A lot of material is already available in public domain, therefore I need not elaborate on that. The matter is under investigation by the appropriate agencies of the state.
When the government was formed, why didn’t you give Pilot some heavy ministries? That is said to be one of the reasons for his unhappiness.
The question seems to be based on your imagination. I wonder what do you mean by heavy ministries. Shri Pilot was made Deputy CM along with the ministries of PWD, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Science & Technology and Statistics. These ministries are very important and there is ample scope for performance for common good. Still, if he had to say something, he could have raised that before me or within the party.
You have said Pilot and you have not been on talking terms since the government was formed. What have you done to build confidence as a veteran leader? Why did you not reach out to him?
My statement was misunderstood by the media. All due honour was accorded to Shri Pilot in the party and in the government. Things have come to such a pass only due to his ambition-driven activities.
There is an allegation that you wanted to promote your son. Is that true?
There could be nothing more baseless than what you are suggesting. It is also a fact that nobody, including my opponents, would believe this.
As deputy CM and as PCC president, how did Pilot contribute to your government and the party in Rajasthan?
It is better to ask this question to Shri Pilot and make your own independent assessment.
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