Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot, the state Congress president, speaks to The Indian Express about the party’s strategies and its prospects in the state, and says that the Election Commission should be an unbiased and transparent body. He also expresses confidence that the trend of the party ruling in the state winning more Lok Sabha seats will continue in this election.
Where do you see the Congress in the state?
There’s been a robust polling in the first phase (of polling in Rajasthan). I think, traditionally, any government that comes to power in Rajasthan (Assembly) gets a majority of (Lok Sabha) seats (in the state). Having said that, we’ve gone the extra mile in the last three months and announced about 21 pro-people decisions. So this election will be decided on our government’s performance and we hope to reverse what happened in 2014. So I’m very confident and young people, farmers, they’ve all seen what BJP stands for. So I’m quite hopeful about getting very positive results. Our mission is (all) 25 (seats in the state) but I think we’ll get majority of the seats.
Congress’ campaign around Rafale and NYAY doesn’t seem to have worked to the same extent as BJP’s mention of air strikes and the martyrdom of the armed forces. How much will it affect the prospects of Congress party?
People judge a government’s performance by its five-year term. I don’t think speeches in election time make that much of a difference because they try to create a hype and propaganda. And the Congress party is looking at the long term future of this country: to kick start the rural economy, the NYAY Yojana is going to be a game changer. So our manifesto and our five-year track record in the Opposition has been constructive. We’ve raised the issues of Rafale, dilution of the Land Acquisition Act, mob lynching, mob violence… people will judge us in these elections based on what we will do and judge BJP on what it has not done in the last five years.
In your speeches you’ve said that BJP leaders talk of Hindu-Muslim and Mandir-Masjid. Do you think divisiveness gets one more votes?
Well, it gets more headlines. Whatever speeches you’ve heard (by) Sadhvi Pragya, Yogi Adityanath, Bajrang Dal leader Vinay Katiyar, Sakshi Maharaj… all these people, I think, are not doing it without a design by the leadership. So what earlier used to be the so-called fringe element… now these people are ministers, MPs, Chief Ministers. And they’re making these statements with full knowledge of the BJP leadership and the government of India. So if these people are allowed to make divisive comments and get away with it, it tells you that BJP is clutching at straws. They’re now falling back on the tried and tested formula of dividing this country on religious lines, on caste lines, because they’ve to hide their incompetence of their five-year performance.
How do you view the Election Commission giving a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on various counts?
The thing is, (the EC) is a constitutional body. I don’t want to pass judgements on what the EC or anybody else does. But all I can say is that whatever the EC does or doesn’t do, the people of India are watching it. I just think that they should be unbiased, they should be transparent and there should be equity in terms of how the EC reprimands or lets go of individuals making comments which are being complained about.
How has the Congress countered BJP’s rhetoric around national security and the Balakot air strikes?
There is nothing to counter. Most Indians are patriotic, they have great regard and love and respect for their motherland. And all of us view our national security as of prime importance. It cannot be made a national issue just because the BJP failed to deliver on jobs and agrarian crisis.
So, I keep saying this, the soldiers, the armed forces, the men in uniform are the pride and honour of this country. And their valour and their sacrifice is not a question of debate at all. So this question doesn’t arise: about having a narrative or not having a narrative. The real question is what the BJP manifesto says today. If you compare it to five years ago, they are the same promises: Article 370, (Ram) mandir, uniform civil code… People are going to ask that if you had a full majority government in Delhi, why did you fail on your promises…