Winding down the campaign for the Rajasthan Assembly election in Tonk constituency on Wednesday, state Congress chief Sachin Pilot said that the results of the state polls would set the tone for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Pilot, who addressed a string of corner meetings across Tonk, said that the results of polls in five “important” states will gauge the mood of voters. “The BJP has made a lot of tall claims about income, jobs etc. They came out with 28 slogans — Swachh Bharat, Make in India and the such — but how many were implemented? The people will pass judgment on this,” he said.
At a time when the Congress is looking to stitch together an alliance against the BJP before the 2019 polls, the party has allied with the RLD, NCP and Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal but not the BSP, which is contesting 197 seats in Rajasthan on its own.
According to Pilot, the Congress was open to any alliance. “The NDA’s house is collapsing and the UPA is resurgent. I have believed in the idea of a UPA plus plus. In Rajasthan, we were willing to tie up with anybody, but the BSP decided to contest the polls on their own,” he said.
He also denied reports of a rift between him and former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. “For 70 years, the party has never done a person-specific campaign. Our leader is elected after the election. This time, the BJP wanted to shift the focus to us and not on them. We fight as one team and once we win the election, we will decide,” he said.
According to Pilot, the Congress is focused on not allowing the BJP to divert the agenda. “We want to put the focus back on jobs, agrarian crisis, price, investments, black money…things they are hesitant to answer questions about,” he said.
Asked about his shift to state politics after two terms as an MP, Pilot said that the party “gave him the job at a challenging time”. “We lost the last Assembly election and were down to 21 seats in the House. But I believe we have come back strong. I have worked on building the party organisation over the last five years,” he said.
The state Congress started with local polls, Pilot said, and moved its way up sweeping three key bypolls earlier this year.
The Congress campaign in the state has also targeted the BJP government on law and order, particularly on mob lynchings. In Alwar district alone, three men were killed by mobs that alleged they were involved in cow smuggling.
“We cannot differentiate violence. You cannot hit, hurt, maim and kill anyone. Cow smuggling violates the law but it can’t be left to the goons. This kind of medieval justice is unacceptable,” he said.