Elected MLAs and the Congress high command will decide who will lead the party’s government in Rajasthan, senior Congress leader Sachin Pilot has said, fuelling speculation that he remains in the race for the Chief Minister’s post currently occupied by arch-rival Ashok Gehlot.
The remarks, made during an exclusive interview to NDTV on the campaign trail, are significant against the backdrop of the intense rivalry between the Gehlot and Pilot camps that had almost toppled the Congress government in 2020.
While the party has tried to put up a united front for the polls, veiled swipes bare the tussle from time to time. Earlier, in a dig at his rival, Mr Gehlot had said he wants to give up the Chief Minister’s post, “but this post is not letting me go”.
Asked if the Congress is united, Mr Pilot said, “The Congress is fully united. It is the BJP which has factions, tensions, fights. Tickets have been distributed in a wrong manner. I am not saying this, the world is. In the Congress, we sit together and talk.”
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge and party leader Rahul Gandhi have asked him to “forgive, forget and move on”, Mr Pilot said. “That’s why I am looking at the future. I am looking at a five-year roadmap for Rajasthan. Together, we will make Congress win. Thereafter, MLAs and the leadership will decide who will do what,” he added, weeks ahead of the November 25 election.
To a question on how this election is different from the 2018 polls, Mr Pilot said the Congress was in the Opposition back then. “This time, people have seen our work for five years, the development we have brought in villages. This election will be historic, it will change tradition and the Congress will return to power,” he said.
Rajasthan’s politics was dominated by the Congress for about four decades after Independence. Following a BJP victory in 1990, the state has never voted the ruling party back to power. The Congress now is on the wrong-side of this so-called incumbent’s curse, but has expressed confidence that it will break the jinx.
Asked if a jinx will also be broken in his constituency Tonk, where no Congress MLA has won back-to-back, Mr Pilot said, “Likewise, no MLA won by a 50,000 vote margin in Tonk after Independence. Records are made, records are broken. I don’t want to go into numbers. But people have trusted me. And we have done a lot of development work, we helped people during Covid-19. So I can say we will win with a bigger margin in Tonk this time.”
Mr Pilot accused the BJP of politicising emotive issues. “Instead of public welfare issues like power, water and education, BJP talks about religion, about temples and mosques,” he said.