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Moving on was in party’s best interest, will certainly campaign for Gehlot’s son: Pilot

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NEW DELHI, April 3: Having buried the hatchet with former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, Congress leader Sachin Pilot says moving on was in the best interest of the party and stressed he would “100 per cent” campaign for his senior colleague’s son Vaibhav who is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Jalore.

In an interaction with PTI editors at the news agency’s headquarters here, the Congress general secretary said a redux of the 2004 election when the party won the polls despite the India Shining campaign of the NDA is very much on the cards.

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“Repeat of 2004 is very much possible given the circumstances, given the unrest among most people. What you don’t see in the media is the real sentiment on the ground. This politics of jumlas and overconfidence (by the BJP) has its limits,” Pilot said earlier this week.

Asked how he has been able to shake off his past differences with Gehlot and the former Rajasthan CM’s ‘nikamma-nakara’ jibe at him in 2020, Pilot said, “I saw no advantage in replying in the same coin, I refused to be provoked, chose dignity and grace over name-calling and, more importantly, decided to show a large heart and move on.”

This, he said, was better for the party, better for his state and certainly better for him.

“I can look back and say with pride, I never used any words that are unbecoming of a public figure, I have never used language that is derogatory because the value system ingrained in me since childhood has taught me to show respect to elders no matter what the circumstances and I always maintained that,” Pilot said.

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Stressing on the mantra of forgive and forget, Pilot recalled the meeting in Delhi last year when he sat down with party president Mallikarjun Kharge and former AICC chief Rahul Gandhi. “I was asked to forgive and forget and move on, which is exactly what I  have done, that was the need of the hour for the party and the state.”

On why he and Ashok Gehlot, two of the biggest names in Rajasthan Congress were not contesting elections, Pilot said the decision and that of not fielding state unit chief Govind Singh Dotasra was made by the CEC (central election committee) keeping in mind everyone’s role in the elections.

“Final decision on candidate selection is with the CEC. The party took that decision. I have got responsibility for the state in Chhattisgarh… In an election campaign, the leadership allocates different responsibilities to various leaders,” he said.

The best candidates who can win have been fielded in Rajasthan and in Chhattisgarh, he asserted.

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“The party decides what role people have to play. The AICC decided that these are the best candidates. I am responsible for all our candidates. In the media sometimes it appears that he or she is of this faction or that faction, that is not the case at all. Every Congress candidate is our candidate, we have to work in a dedicated manner to ensure they win,” Pilot said.

The Congress had not opened its account in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls or in the polls before that in Rajasthan, so the challenge is there before the party, he noted.

Pilot said the feedback he has received is that the Congress will do “exceedingly well” this time in Rajasthan because the people are “fed up and want a change”.

“People don’t voice their opinion very freely these days but on voting day,  they will vote for the Congress,” he said.

Asked if he would campaign for Ashok Gehlot’s son Vaibhav, who is contesting from Jalore, Pilot said, “I will 100 per cent go (to campaign for Vaibhav Gehlot).”

“Last time (in 2019 polls) when I was the Rajasthan Congress president, I pushed for his (Vaibhav Gehlot’s) ticket to get finalised from Delhi, I went for his nomination. He could not win the polls that time but I had campaigned for him.

This time he is fighting from another seat, Jalore, I will definitely campaign for him this time also,” Pilot said.

According to the Congress general secretary, the lack of jobs and the “agrarian crisis” would be key factors in the polls, as also the “brazen manner” in which the government has acted in many cases, subverted the norms and crossed the line repeatedly.

Asked about claims of Prime Minister Narendra Modi being “unstoppable”, Pilot said nobody is “unstoppable” and again cited the 2004 example.

“In 2004, Mr Atal Bihari Vjapayee ran the campaign on India Shining and that time we did not declare PM face etc. We have not done that this time also as the idea is to have two options in front of the people – INDIA or NDA. The INDIA bloc has decided that we will decide on who will get what post and position after securing the peoples mandate in the elections,” he said.

Pilot said the current Lok Sabha polls are an “open election” and “anything can happen”.

“I am confident the INDIA bloc partners will get the required numbers to form a government,” he asserted.

Asked if the Congress was like a corporation where one can become a CEO but never the owner and how it impacts young politicians like him, Pilot said if all leaders did not feel like equal stakeholders in the organisation, they would not give it everything they’ve got and work so tirelessly.

On several young leaders quitting the party, he said, “You will have to ask them for the reasons why they left the party. Some people leave because of compulsion, some due to pressure or allurements, everyone has a different reason for why they choose to change ideology and move to a different path.”

Pilot said it is for those who leave the party to answer why they took that step.

Whether their decision is right or wrong, time will tell and the voters will tell, he said. (PTI)





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