Expressing concern over the politics of “fear” in the last five years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, Congress leader and Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot said Thursday that people are now afraid of speaking on their mobile phones and use WhatsApp or landlines instead.
Speaking at the Express Adda in Mumbai, Pilot said that the real challenge in the coming Lok Sabha elections is to fight “negativity” and “fear-mongering” in politics.
“Every five years there are elections and every party says we are the best. I think what’s happened in the last five years is that there is a real challenge to things that we always thought were sacrosanct. There are institutions or things we’ve done that were never part of our politics. That line has been crossed many times over,” he said.
“We are fighting today, negativity…fearmongering. I won’t call it oppression. But certainly, there is a force. Why is everybody now calling on WhatsApp calls? People don’t talk on mobiles anymore. They call you back on WhatsApp or landline because the mind is full of fear. That’s the impression that this government has created. We are looking to make it sure that the next five years are a relief from this atmosphere. So, we have Mamata (Banerjee), Mayawati and others. They have their party’s own stakes. But for the larger good, we all have to work together.”
He also questioned the “vindictive” politics unleashed against the political Opposition and rivals. “If you question the policies of the government, you are immediately labelled anti-government. That is the narrative in the last two years. The Enforcement Directorate to the CBI, all investigating agencies are set on individuals.”
According to Pilot, in the past, the Rajiv Gandhi government had 400 plus seats in Parliament but nobody in the Congress spoke of finishing Opposition parties. “You hear BJP president Amit Shah and BJP talking of Congress mukt Bharat or making statements like they will be here for 50 years and finish the Opposition,” he said.
As his party locks horns with the ruling BJP on the number of casualties in the February 26 Balakot air strike, Pilot said he believes what the Air Force and the Government say on the air strike but will question claims made by BJP leaders.
“What my Air Force says, I believe, what the Indian government says, I believe. But I don’t want to believe some BJP politicians making claims on behalf of the Air Force. That is rumour mongering. This is an aspect which I will question,” he said.
Pilot also expressed confidence in the Opposition grand alliance against the BJP and said, “In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, India will have a new government and a new Prime Minister,” adding that the grand alliance will take a call on the next Prime Minister after the poll results are announced.
He also said that the NDA government cannot wish away is failures in the employment sector and in promoting economic growth.
“Today, the government claims seven per cent growth. Where is it? Even in a city like Mumbai, I don’t see that happening. There are no jobs. People are moving out of the country. There is chest thumping by the government. But the ground reality is very different.”
According to Pilot, the recent Congress victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, which he attributed to party chief Rahul Gandhi, have exposed the BJP’s failures.
Asked if there was one thing he would give Prime Minister Narendra Modi credit for, Pilot said, “One thing I credit the PM for is his stamina. As Prime Minister of India, he gets and got all my respect that I would give any Prime Minister. I am opposing him as a BJP person.”
On his working equations with Congress veteran and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, he said, “He is an experienced leader. Yes, sometimes we think differently. But it is not a problem.”
At the Express Adda, which is a series of interactions with people at the centre of change, Pilot was in conversation with Anant Goenka, Executive Director, Indian Express Group and Vandita Mishra, Express’s National Opinion Editor. Guests at the event in the past have included the Dalai Lama, Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, filmmaker Karan Johar and oncologist and author Siddhartha Mukherjee.