Days after the Congress fielded Ashok Gehlot loyalist Shanti Dhariwal from the Kota North assembly seat in Rajasthan, senior leader Sachin Pilot on Tuesday said he was “absolutely okay” with whatever decision the party has taken as dwelling on the past is not productive.
The ticket distribution was by and large “very fair” with the winnability factor adhered to, he said, adding the priority now was to work for ensuring the victory of all candidates selected by the party.
In an interview with PTI on board a flight from Delhi to Indore in Madhya Pradesh where he will be on a campaign trail for two days, Pilot said he was working in Rajasthan with the mantra of “forgive, forget and move on” as advised by party chief Mallikarjun Kharge and former AICC president Rahul Gandhi.
Asked about Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s past barbs such as ‘nikamma’ directed at him, Mr Pilot said, “Leave it! Who said what…I can be responsible for what I have said or not said. We should maintain dignity in political discussions.”
“Whoever said all those words you mentioned, I did not respond in kind because it is not the way I am built and we now have to move on, let bygones be bygones, whatever was said, we need to forget and move forward. It is not about individuals or positions or someone’s statements now. It is about the country and the party,” Mr Pilot said.
He also said who gets what position is “not decided by an individual” and the longstanding tradition in the Congress was that newly-elected MLAs and the leadership in Delhi take a call after getting a majority.
Asked about ticket distribution and voices of dissent following the announcement of the Congress candidates’ lists, the former deputy chief minister said it is a good thing when a political party has a problem of plenty i.e. more people wanting a ticket for the same seat.
“Ultimately, the party can give a ticket only to one individual. So after a lot of feedback, surveys, opinion of leaders, we gave tickets on winnability. It is not possible to satisfy everybody. By and large the distribution of ticket is very fair,” he said.
“I have always wanted more younger people to get opportunities to fight elections and a lot of younger people have been given a chance this time. Overall there are a lot more pulls and pressures and infighting after the announcement of the BJP lists,” Pilot said.
Asked specifically about Shanti Dhariwal’s ticket from Kota North. Pilot said, “I don’t want to go into the allocation of (tickets to) individuals. Whoever the party felt was a winnable candidate whether X,Y or Z, that person was given the mandate after much consideration.” “Ultimately, like I said, the final decision lies with the Congress president and the top leadership, whatever they have decided, we have to work and make sure those people win the elections,” he said.
Asked about the rebellion he led against the government led by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in 2020 and the events of September last year when Gehlot loyalist did not allow a legislature party meeting to take place, Pilot said the issues that he raised in 2020 were important for the party and people.
“There was a time when the Rajasthan government did not have a Dalit minister, today we have four Dalit ministers, workers who struggled against five years of Vasundhara Raje government, went to jail, faced lathi charges, those people should be rewarded, not by giving power and positions but by appreciating them, involving them in decision making, they becoming stakeholders in the government of the day. So that has happened now,” he told PTI.
The AICC at that point had made a committee to look into all the issues that were raised and “I am happy that we moved forward”, Pilot said.
The Congress last week fielded state Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dhariwal from the Kota North seat. The party did not give a ticket to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s confidant and Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation Chairman Dharmendra Rathore.
Dhariwal and Rathore were among the three senior state leaders against whom the party’s disciplinary committee had issued notices after they did not attend a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party in the state and held a parallel meeting of MLAs instead last year at Dhariwal’s residence. A leadership change was on the cards at the legislature party meet.
Mahesh Joshi, the third leader who was issued a notice by the party’s disciplinary committee, has also been denied a ticket for the Assembly polls.
On Dhariwal, Pilot further said, “As far as giving a ticket is concerned, it is the decision of the party. In their wisdom, after having given due consideration to all the aspects they decided to give tickets to people. Whatever decision party has taken I am absolutely okay with it.” “Whoever have been nominated, we have to ensure their victory. Who said what, did what is all in the past, if you keep dwelling on it, it is not very productive especially during election time. We have to make our candidates win, that should be our priority,” Pilot asserted.
Asked about suggestions by some that his chances of becoming CM were hit by his 2020 rebellion, the Congress leader said, “I don’t think it is a question of my chance, your chance or his chance. Right now we have to make sure the Congress party wins.” “Who gets what position is not decided by an individual. The longstanding tradition in the Congress party is that you fight elections, get a mandate, once you cross the majority mark, the MLAs and the leadership in Delhi will decide who will get what responsibility. In 2018, exactly same thing happened, I was the party president when we got the majority, we passed a one-line resolution authorising the party president to decide who will lead the government and I think, this time is no different,” he asserted.
Not just in Rajasthan, this is the case in every state that goes to polls, he added.
What happens in future no one knows but right now our priority is and should be that the Congress party gets the mandate from the voters, Pilot said.
On the events of September last year when the legislature party meeting could not take place, Pilot said it was “unfortunate” and pointed out that Chief Minister Gehlot himself had expressed regret for what happened.
“I was advised by Mr. Kharge and Mr. (Rahul) Gandhi to forgive, forget and move on. That’s the mantra I am working with and that is the way everybody should be looking at things,” he said.
This nation needs a strong Congress and to build a strong Congress “we have to win these state elections”.
“We have to win these states. These are heartland Hindi states where there is a bipolar contest. We won in Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, those victories have given Congress workers a lot of tailwind,” he said.
Pilot said he is “absolutely” confident that people have realised that the Congress is a better alternative and these elections will see a large and a positive mandate for the party.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)