Results will be shocker for BJP: Sachin Pilot

If BJP was so confident about getting 400-plus seats and supremely happy with their incumbents, why were they importing people from other parties, including the Congress? questions Congress leader.
Results will be shocker for BJP: Sachin Pilot

Shahid Faridi: We have among us for this edition of Delhi Dialogues, the rising star of the Congress Party, Sachin Pilot. He’s a rising star at a time when most of the stars of his age and his party have turned into shooting stars. The BJP is working overtime to tell the country that the sun has set on the grand old party that is Congress to which he belongs.

Sachin Pilot, unlike the other leaders of his age and his party who became ministers in the Manmohan Singh government in 2009, doesn’t come from a royal family background. His father was a first-generation politician who made a mark for himself with his hard work and honesty. Sachin has inherited the exceptional quality of his father of connecting with the people. He became an MP, and he was probably the youngest at that time in 2004 when he was elected from Dausa.

Then he was given charge of the state Congress when the party was routed in Rajasthan and could win only 21 seats out of 200. He worked hard for five years, campaigned in Rajasthan, and the party returned to power in 2018.

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Sachin Pilot: Thank you very much for inviting me. Maybe 10, 15, or 20 years ago, one would not have thought that our polity would be where it is today. So much has happened so quickly. We have to embrace ourselves to see what the next few months and years have ahead of us. We are in the middle of elections; it’s even more interesting to be having a conversation with all of you.

Prabhu Chawla: The oft-used word in Congress circles is ‘counting’. What exactly do you count? How many people have left the party and how many more will leave? Or something else?

Many people harbour such a misunderstanding. The import-export of leaders is common when we are fighting an election. It has become so rampant that people now have become immune to it. But when a leader leaves a party, all his voters and supporters don’t leave.

Secondly, this election is far more than just a count. It has now become much more decisive and pivotal for many reasons. Opposition unity is crucial now.

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Prabhu Chawla: The reality is that you are not able to find enough candidates…

How many candidates does the BJP have in the North-East, Tamil Nadu and Kerala? The comparison should be fair.

We have our own winning candidates. In Haryana, 6 out of 10 BJP candidates are former Congressmen.

Prabhu Chawla: Is your party not battle-ready?

That is not true. Ultimately we fight elections to win. It is the people who decide. I cannot hold a grudge against the people of India because they didn’t vote for us. I have to perform better, strive better and then achieve success. The results of both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections will be a shocker for BJP. If BJP was so confident about getting 400-plus seats and supremely happy with their incumbents, why were they importing people from other parties, including the Congress? We will definitely do better this time. The Lok Sabha results will be shocker for BJP.

Prabhu Chawla: What does ‘better’ mean -- from 52 to 104?

The PM keeps citing figures like 400-plus. I won’t take that liberty. I just feel that the INDIA alliance will get the required mandate to be able to form the government.

Prabhu Chawla: The Congress has gone through many changes. Earlier old people were thrown out but under the current regime, young people are leaving the party…

I hold no brief for anybody. You must ask people who have joined or have left. Some people may have left under compulsion, pressure or out of hunger for power, I don’t know.

Everyone is free to make the choice and the ideological path is theirs to follow. But the final judge is the people of India. In the same vein, the BJP has expelled Jaswant Singh, Uma Bharti and Kalyan Singh. What did they do to LK Advani?

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Shahid Faridi: The Congress lost the last two Lok Sabha elections badly. What is the compelling narrative this time?

First thing is how institutions are really losing their independence and credibility. Look at the way the election commissioner is being chosen. First it was the CJI, PM and the leader of opposition. Now the CJI has been replaced with a cabinet minister.

Preetha: In states like MP and Rajasthan, many Congress members have joined BJP recently. How will you address the organizational decay?

Some people having left the Congress party will not affect the psyche of the voter. Out of 25 seats in Rajasthan, we got a zero in 2019 and 2014. The

positive way to look at it is we can only grow. We can’t go less than that. I think there’s a change happening. We have a fierce contest in more than half the seats. I’ve seen the change in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Rajasthan. UP, Bihar, Bengal, Maharashtra are also very important.

So our alliances in Bihar and Maharashtra are formidable. And I think that’s what BJP’s worry is. If you add numbers, NDA got 35-36% vote. We got 65% of the vote. The BJP revised the NDA only after the INDIA Alliance came into being.

Results will be shocker for BJP: Sachin Pilot
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Ketan Tanna: Congress leaders have questioned the use of EVMs. Do you feel the EVMs can be manipulated?

It’s a very controversial thing because it’s gone to courts. There are certain views on it. I feel that it is the job of the Election Commission to clear all doubts. If someone has a doubt on VVPAT, the percentage, the slips, any technical doubt must be cleared for getting people’s full credibility behind the process. Even if one voter feels that there is something that can go wrong, EC should clarify and make everything above board.

Preetha: Your critics say Congress often fails to mount an ideological challenge to Hindutva forces and adopts a compromising approach. Rahul Gandhi held a roadshow in Wayanad without any flags as it was wary of displaying its ally Muslim League’s flag…

If someone is trying to use an event, religion, or God, to his or her advantage, that’s up to them. I think the state has a different role to play. A state is run by the Constitution and it is agnostic to religion and personal likes and dislikes.

Preetha: IUML is an old ally…

The UDF alliance in Kerala is 30 years old and nothing has changed since then. But people see new connotations now.

Santwana Bhattacharya: You are talking about participatory democracy. The last years of the UPA government saw policy paralysis, and questions about decision-making…

Let’s not forget our government was a coalition government. There were pressures. In the end, the narrative in the media did become that their decision-making was not as smooth as it should be. But now we have the complete opposite. I don’t think there’s much discussion in the cabinet or open-hearted exchanges of ideas. They made the three farm laws and how many people died… Then they withdrew them. So, that sort of opaque decision-making is also not good.

Results will be shocker for BJP: Sachin Pilot
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Santwana Bhattacharya: Why can’t Congress get the narrative right to attract young voters?

The second part of the answer is that the good part of the technology is that it’s open source. With AI, I can do data mining; I can do a lot many things in comparison to my competition. The difference is how much resource I can deploy. That is the factor of influence, but it’s changed a lot. You can push a campaign, your presence; and your narrative can be more proliferating. It is both good and bad because you are not able to compete. After all, it is all commercial. The lack of funds is another issue.

Rumana: Rajasthan politics has always been a binary between BJP and Congress. This time, you merged your vote bank with smaller parties like the CPM and RLP. What is the difference you expect to come out?

Out of 25, we have given two seats to each of our allies in the state. CPM is our national ally and RLP is a regional party that had a coalition with the BJP in 2019 but fell out during farmers’ agitation where it supported Congress’ stance. We have a very good contest on over half the seats and I’m hoping to gain at least that much.

Santwana Bhattacharya: There is a sudden focus on southern states by the BJP. The controversy of Katchatheevu is the latest example. Why has the Congress not been able to counter it properly?

It was a bilateral agreement with Sri Lanka about a small territory done 60 years ago. Such agreements have happened in the Modi govt also which the public doesn’t know about. With Bangladesh, some land areas were exchanged. Raking up a controversy about international agreements to fulfill BJP’s Mission South will not bear any fruit.

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