Returning to Jaipur on Tuesday after spending a month in NCR, Congress leader Sachin Pilot says that he was “saddened, surprised, and hurt” by statements made against him by Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot but kept quiet “to set an example.” In an interview with Hamza Khan, he speaks about those issues and more. Excerpts:
What are the main issues which will be listed before the three-member committee formed by the party?
What I have said is between me and the party. The issues are not personal – they are governance issues, collective leadership issues, delivery (by the government) issues, and there are issues relating to functioning and performance of the government and the party. I think they are suggestions for improvement on how we can better deliver on promises we made 18 months ago. The rest of the committee will sit down and we will talk about what needs to be said and done further.
I have already listed out the issues and grievances we all had with the Congress leadership, and based on those conversations the party has decided to make a three-member committee. I am sure the names (of committee members) will be announced very soon and they will start their work.
Are there any issues with the party’s organisation in Rajasthan?
I don’t want to get into names but I think we have to take a long, hard look at what has happened in the last 18 months and accountability and responsibility has to be set. I won’t get into individuals but as a party, as a government, synchronisation, consultation and the sense of belonging for every worker, at every level – that needs to be a part of how we run a government.
A month on, what suddenly changed on Monday?
Nothing changed. From day one, (we were) talking about the issues that we wanted to discuss. After that, a lot of action happened in Jaipur: expulsions, suspensions, cases, SOG, ACB, FIRs, coercive action, police action. All of that made things much more untenable than we desired for. Obviously when I went there [to NCR] for the first time, no one expected things to go down south so rapidly. But those actions obviously did not create a conducive environment for any conversation to happen.
But the party took a stand that in the larger interest; we have to discuss how to resolve this issue; and that’s when Rahul Gandhi-ji and Priyanka Gandhi-ji came in.
It is said that you did not have the numbers and had no option left. So you returned to Jaipur.
That’s an easy assessment to make. (But) it’s not about numbers. When we went (away) on the issue of SOG notice, at that time there was no question of numbers – kum zyada kya hain (whether they are more or less). After we went there, there was a lot of action at the CLP in Jaipur, and I was removed from (state unit) party president’s position, which is fine. But today, we have ensured that anyone who was trying to suggest ideas about leaving the party (has to backtrack).
The first and only public statement I made was that we are in the Congress and there is no change. I have not said anything to undermine that position, and I stand vindicated today.
But your actions suggest otherwise. You left Rajasthan and were residing in the NCR.
If we are afraid of coercive action from Rajasthan police, (then) whether you live in Noida, Faridabad, Delhi, Haryana or Gurgaon (the police can come). They were scared for their life – most of the MLAs. We felt that by going to Jaipur some of them would have been harassed, or some action would be taken. (Otherwise) who wants to be away from home, your (own) area?
By the way, all of us pooled in — our MLAs are here, we pooled in our legal expenses, our accommodation expenses. (They) are all paid by cheque and through RTGS transfers. I made an invoice of all that. I knew these things will come (up).
The CM has said a coup was being planned since long and there are audio recordings of MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma and others.
Bhanwarlal Sharma-ji has met CM yesterday (Monday). You ask him what he and Gehlot-ji discussed.
He did. I have moved beyond that. I have not responded because I do not want to get into that conversation of who called (me) what. I have my own way of doing things.
The CM said the two of you haven’t been on talking terms ever since the government was formed.
I know – I also heard that (laughs). It kind of gives you an idea of how things would have been. From my side…I have never actually done anything to stop that communication. And I believe I have always given nothing but respect and honour for a person who is much older than I am, much more experienced than I am.
It seemed to be all fine when I was in Opposition for five years; all these issues came up after government formation. But again, I think it is better if he answers those questions.
The two of you met publicly several times after the government was formed. Was that a pretence?
Like I said, I have nothing against any individual, I have no ill feeling, I have nothing but warmth and regard for the Chief Minister, but what he has said, it is best you ask him to explain.
There still seems to be a lot of bad blood between you and Gehlot.
It’s not about individuals. Politics is not about personal likes and dislikes; it is issue based — things that we brought out, problems, structures in governance — it is not about individuals. Gehlot-ji is a very senior person – he is almost 70 now – and I have regard for him at a personal level. But as CM if I find that something needs to be changed to make it better, I have the right to say those things. It is not anti-party, anti-national or anti-democracy when I say these things. And we must have that open discussion to discuss and take those things forward.
What are your future plans within the party?
I have not asked for any position in the party. I said our workers, our MLAs, our leaders need to be given equal treatment. There needs to be parity in what we do as a government. We need to get respect. Space, regard, and self-respect – that’s the thing I am fighting for. As long as we have that, I have not asked for anything in particular for myself.
Whatever the party has assigned me (in the past), I have worked on it seriously. Whatever they assign me in future, I will do that.
Have you asked for your loyalists to be adjusted in the government?
There are no loyalists of X, Y and Z. They are all Sonia Gandhi loyalists; we are all Congress party loyalists.