After the Congress suffered a humiliating rout in last year’s Assembly election in Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot, Union Minister for Corporate Affairs, was chosen as the State PCC president in January. With the party deciding to rest old hands like former CM Ashok Gehlot and former PCC chief Chandrabhan, Mr. Pilot is essentially the party’s face in the parliamentary polls in the State. While he looks comfortably placed in his own Ajmer constituency, the 36-year-old has a tough task on his hand given the prevailing anti-Congress mood in the State, coupled with the ‘Modi wave’.
Mahim Pratap Singh caught up with Mr. Pilot on his campaign trail in the rural areas of Ajmer on Sunday. Finding time from tying turbans and trying his hand at cricket with rural children, Mr. Pilot found time to talk to this correspondent.
You are leading the Congress into the parliamentary elections in Rajasthan barely three months after being appointed state Congress president. How well is the Congress placed? Especially considering the humiliating defeat it suffered in last year’s Assembly polls.
I think there is a great change from four months ago when we lost the Assembly polls. I have been travelling, and to my surprise, in such a short time there’s been a change of mood in the electorate (regarding) the Congress. The candidates we have selected, the campaign we are doing...we are on a very strong wicket. The party has become more united, and the youth is responding to the party’s call.
Last time, we got 20 seats and this time too, we are looking at a similar figure.
Ever since the party’s rout in the Assembly elections, there have been rumours about former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot being overlooked by the party leadership. He has now been sent to Gujarat as the election in-charge of that State. Also, BJP state president Ashok Parnami recently accused you of sidelining Mr. Gehlot.
I think you’re paying too much attention to Mr. Parnami’s statements. The Congress is a very united party, there is no question of promoting, sidelining, nudging, tripping. And let me tell you, Ashok Gehlotji has been in public life before I was born. He has achieved everything and has contributed to the party immensely. I want to be able to be in a position to exploit this experience.
What chances do non-Congress, non-BJP alternatives like the Aam Aadmi Party and the National People’s Party have in these elections?
In Rajasthan, the contest is only between the BJP and Congress, no third or fourth force. As far as NPP is concerned, we all know what happened to them in the Assembly polls. AAP will have no impact in Rajasthan. The BJP either harassed, pressured or bribed their candidate after which he withdrew his nomination from Ajmer at the last minute. In fact now, all the AAP workers and supporters in Ajmer are coming out in my support.
Before your candidature from Ajmer was announced, there were rumours about you exploring other, “safer” seats. Your comments.
Let me clear this once and for all. When I became party president, I received delegations from workers requesting me to contest from Jaipur, Bhilwara, Tonk-Sawaimadhopur, Nagaur, and so on...as the party president I said ‘thank you’ and kept those.
You were recently ranked first among all MPs in India by a survey. Do you think developmental work done in the constituency translates into votes? Or does it eventually boil down to the usual backstage wheeling and dealing?
I believe if you work, people will reward you. I know there is a perception that caste equations formed during the last few weeks help you win, but I want to prove that wrong. My work will speak for me.