JAIPUR: Rajasthan Congress President and state Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot have said that the party was confident of winning all Lok Sabha seats in the state under its “Mission 25”, and that a Congress-led UPA-3 government will be formed at the Centre after the election results are declared on May 23.
“We are working towards Mission 25 and I am hopeful we will accomplish it. Countrywide, the Congress will be in pole position. The only party that has the bandwidth and the strength to challenge and defeat the BJP at a national level is Congress. I think UPA-3 with more allies is a reality on May 23,” Pilot told IANS in an interview.
The Congress has led two UPA governments at the Centre from 2004 to 2014.
He accused the BJP of trying to raise emotive issues in the election and said the Congress is concerned about people’s livelihood, the opportunity for young people, the agrarian crisis and economic slowdown.
“I believe that these elections should be fought on governance issues, as opposed to emotive issues that BJP wants them towards. We are trying to focus on issues that matter to everyday lives of citizens and we have been able to bring the discussion back to where it belongs, as opposed to being on religion and mandir, masjid and all sorts of things,” he said.
“The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister talks about Ali and Bajrang Bali. That is not the kind of narrative that today’s politics needs.”
Pilot said that every candidate fielded by the Congress was a “unanimous choice of party leaders.
“We have put up 25 winning candidates and will be able to get á thumping majority in Lok Sabha. We held consultations for three months and winnable, acceptable, consensual candidates have been fielded,” he said.
Asked about the BJP’s criticism that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had focused excessively in Jodhpur where his son Vaibhav is contesting, Pilot said there is nothing wrong in working hard in a place.
“He is Chief Minister, he has put a lot of effort into making sure we win that seat. I see nothing wrong in that. We have campaigned together also. We have covered most of the state. He has been to other places also, besides Jodhpur,” he said.
Pilot said he had gone for Vaibhav’s nomination and had opened his election office. “I am sure we will get a thumping majority,” he added.
Asked if Congress President Rahul Gandhi will be the Prime Minister after the polls, he said: “I am a Congressman. We have never run after posts and positions. Democracy is all about numbers and Rahulji himself has said, let the results come out we will sit together and decide who will lead the government. But as a Congressperson, my wish is that he plays a very vital role after May 23.”
Asked about reports of only meagre amounts being waived off farm loans, Pilot said Rs 18,000 crore had been waived off for cooperative banks and Bhoomi Vikas Bank.
“Commercial banks, however, are controlled by the Finance Ministry. We are negotiating with them but the Model Code of Conduct is in place. As soon as the code of conduct is removed, we will waive off those loans also.”
Answering a query about Lok Sabha results, he said: “there will be a change of leadership in Delhi with a new Prime Minister”.
He said BJP was resorting to hyper-nationalism to cover up “incompetency” of the Modi government in the last five years.
“Nationalism is not something that needs to be tested and brought just before elections. We are all patriotic citizens and the valour and sacrifice of our armed forces is never up for question. I think the respect and gratitude that all of us citizens have towards the armed forces is never in doubt.
“Therefore, I think it quite pointless to have that discussion but in terms of talking about nationalism, is it being done only to cover up incompetency of five years of the current government?” he said.
He said that the Congress government in Rajasthan has taken some good initiatives in the state since it came into office last December and people will judge it on its performance.
“I am quite convinced that we will get a resounding majority in the Lok Sabha polls in all the three states – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. In Rajasthan, we are working towards Mission 25 and I am hopeful we will succeed in accomplishing that mission,” he said.
Pilot, who was made Deputy Chief Minister after the party leadership decided to again nominate Ashok Gehlot as Chief Minister, has held rallies across the state. Party leaders said he has held nearly 125 meetings.
Pilot said BJP was not talking about the price of gas cylinders, or prices of petrol and diesel, because they believe they have no answers for such questions.
“They are talking about issues that are emotional in nature, whether it is religion or hyper-nationalism,” he said.
Pilot rejected the suggestion that people will make a distinction between the performance of the Vasundhra Raje-led previous BJP government in the state and that of the Modi government.
“Vasundhraji and Modiji are the two sides of the same coin. They both belong to the BJP,” he said.
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at email@example.com)