Rajasthan State Congress chief promises a people-centric government that is open to dialogue and discussions and focussed on the farm crisis and job creation

As political parties get busy selecting candidates for the Assembly election in Rajasthan, Pradesh Congress Committee president Sachin Pilot shares his party’s plans. Excerpts from an interview:

You have been making public statements about ‘winnability’ as the only criterion while deciding Congress candidates. What do you mean by it?

Obviously any party will want to field the best candidates possible. And I am of the opinion that we must field candidates who have done work in the past four-and-a-half years. When we lost the elections, we got only 21 seats out of 200. At that point, those workers who were out on the streets raising people’s issues and concerns, finding resonance among people with their credibility and work capacities … [that] should be the only criteria for deciding who will contest. There are 10 people asking for ticket but only one can get it. I don’t think we should go in for your favourite and my favourite. It should be a person who is rooted among the people and should win the election.

What about representation of women?

It is my endeavour to make sure that we field more women than we have ever fielded before.

We are trying to make sure that younger women, those politically active who have raised issues, have worked in the party for a few years and have a sound footing get a chance. We have identified many such women and will accommodate them. We are not doing anyone any favours by giving ticket as they represent half the population.

You are also doing a fine balancing act by reaching out to different castes. Jaswant Singh’s son, Manvendra Singh, has been welcomed into the party with an eye on the Rajputs who have traditionally voted for the BJP.

You see Rajasthan is turning over. Caste, language, religion issues have a place, but they are not going to be pivotal to how young people look at their future. But what is there for people to see is that people [Manvendra Singh] who have lived, worked and spent a lifetime in the organisation are not only disgruntled but are looking at the Congress as a better alternative. If this can happen to BJP leaders and MLAs, you can imagine the plight of the common people. It is time for Vasundharaji [Chief Minister] to introspect.

But the BJP cites senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot’s statement that the Congress will not change any of the Vasundhara government’s social schemes to argue that this is an acknowledgement that the schemes worked.

I have read that statement of Mr. Gehlot. I think what he meant was that we will not be shortsighted and act in vendetta. The essence of his statement was we won’t indulge in negative politics and vendetta. But yes Vasundharaji’s regime has seen closure of schools, poor law and order and farmer suicides. We will have to address all these issues.

The Vasundhara government has promised outright free power and loan waivers. But the Congress has not made those promises.

It’s never to be implemented, it’s only for headlines. The farm loan waiver is only for cooperative banks. This qualified waiver that Vasundharaji is trying to do hasn’t taken off. She is announcing free electricity to farmers an hour before the code of conduct kicks in. She is announcing farm loan waivers by taking a loan of ₹6,000 crore. We will make Rajasthan debt-free and after having done that, we want to develop an ecosystem where the farmers get direct access to credit, direct supply to the mandis and don’t have to struggle as a community. Announcing and not delivering is something we will not do.

If someone were to vote for the Congress, what are the key promises that one can look forward to being delivered?

Our government will be a people-centric government that is absolutely open to dialogue and discussions. And the key things that we will take to the people while campaigning are: farmers will not see this crisis; we will have real job creation but won’t give a figure. We will genuinely try to give jobs to young educated people of Rajasthan.

If people are not able to get jobs, we must be able to give credit on easy terms for them to start something either as a group or as individual. If you can’t give jobs or access to credit, we are looking at giving deserving families, educated young boys and girls, a monthly allowance of up to ₹3,500.

In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Congress wanted allies but didn’t get them. In Rajasthan, parties want to ally with you but the Congress doesn’t want them.

What is your response?

We want all anti-BJP parties to come together on the same platform but any alliance has to be practical and respectable. The BSP may have decided to go it alone in these elections for reasons best known to them, but the national umbrella alliance against the BJP is very much here.

In recent elections, we have seen Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s last-minute campaign changes the narrative. Does the Congress have a counter plan?

It’s unlikely that he [Mr. Modi] can do this in Rajasthan. Ultimately, he has to account for the five years of Vasundharaji’s government. He cannot wish away those five years. You cannot attack the Congress here because at some point he has to defend the CM’s record. Her report card is there for people to see.

And after four-and-a-half years, his record nationally is not stellar that he can influence the election in a BJP-run State.

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