Rajasthan Polls | BJP Is Re-enacting the UP Template: Sachin Pilot
Speaking exclusively to Tamanna Imandar of BloombergQuint, Sachin Pilot, the Rajasthan Congress president, said that BJP is playing retrograde and backward-looking politics ahead of Rajasthan Assembly Elections on 7 December.
You are fighting the election from Tonk. Why that constituency specifically?
We have left the decision to Congress president as to who will contest and from where. I have been party president for five years. Mr Gandhi made it clear that he wants me to fight the election. So, all of us are contesting. As far as the choice of the constituency, that was also a party decision. I have been an MP from Dausa. That seat got reserved for ST, so I couldn’t contest from there. Then I was an MP from Ajmer and recently we won a by-election in Ajmer. So, we have a sitting MP from Ajmer. Tonk is a seat that is actually adjacent. It is between Dausa and Ajmer. And the party felt that my candidature there will help the party not just in that district, but perhaps will have a positive impact on the Congress party in surrounding areas. I am very happy that I have been asked to contest. I have had a two-day campaign in Tonk and people have been very receptive, very warm and very loving. The area is quite backward. We’ve had a BJP MLA, BJP MP, BJP CM, BJP PM for five years and that place deserves a lot better than what it has got.
It also led to the last-minute change in BJP candidate standing against you who is the sitting Transport Minister. It seems like a choice to field a minority candidate in a seat which has a large minority population. Do you think that makes it a tougher fight for you?
I am fighting the BJP. Who the candidate is, is not important. The gentlemen who is now a last-minute candidate was not given a ticket from his existing constituency where he is MLA from because of the religion he belongs to, and the only reason he’s been given a ticket from where he is now contesting is also only because of the religion he belongs to. The BJP is re-enacting the UP template, which is sad and unfortunate because when you have been in power for five years, you have so much to show, you can flaunt your report card, show your development work and seek votes on that basis as opposed to looking at candidates who will single out the prism of what religion you belong to. That’s not the India we want to shape. That’s not the 21st Century young Indians have dreamed for and aspire for. We need to move on. But unfortunately, BJP has still got the dogma of religion, caste, and language.
Every party including the Congress does that arithmetic.
You look at the winnability. I am quite happy we have a candidate there. He is very reluctant to contest but he is contesting. The point is that BJP decided to not give tickets to people from a certain community. It is a deliberate political move. I am only challenging that move. A sitting MLA, a minister, how can he not be a winning candidate when he was won thrice before. Why, this time, has he has been denied a ticket? The whole world knows why he is being denied. That type of politics is retrograde. It is backward-looking politics, where you still think that religion and politics should come together. To my mind, politics and religion should be kept apart. It is a matter of personal faith, who you pray to, who you believe in, what rituals you do. Politics is about the work that you do, and that’s the basis on which I think Tonk deserves a better representative.
Have you been sharing notes with the Congress party in Madhya Pradesh? Because they seem to believe that religion and politics do go together.
I have seen the manifesto. There are a few infrastructures developmental issues that people have asked Congress party to include. If the people are demanding that infrastructure in certain religious sites needs to get better, there’s nothing wrong in that.
Is it a ‘soft Hindutva’ approach?
I can comment about Rajasthan. I’m sure in Rajasthan we will have a Jan Ghoshna Patra out in few days’ time. The Congress party is singularly focused on the agrarian crisis, young people getting employment, economic growth that creates jobs as opposed to jobless growth that the state is now facing. These are the core issues. BJP wants to divert the issues to Ram Mandir, temple, Ayodhya, cow vigilante, mob lynching, ghar wapsi. All these issues are not pertinent to today’s average Indian’s life. What he wants is progressive-looking policies. which, unfortunately, the BJP hasn’t provided.