There has been much talk of the Congress's Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot contesting the elections in Rajasthan — both of them are chief ministerial candidates. WION spoke with Avinash Pande, the Congress' general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, and asked him whether the fielding of both Pilot and Gehlot was sending confusing signals.
Pande said no. That there was a demand from the party's workers that both leaders be fielded, and that the fielding of senior leaders helps mobilise party cadre. Here is the full text of their conversation:
Kartikeya Sharma: Why did Congress field both Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan?
Avinash Pande: Both of them are tall leaders. There was demand from the workers as well. We also wanted senior leaders to contest assembly elections. It helps party to mobilise the cadre.
KS: Doesn’t it send contradictory signals in the context of the chief ministerial candidate? AP: I do not agree. CM is decided by the MLAs after the elections in consultation with the high command. The decision to field them was not taken keeping the issue of CM in mind. The decision was taken because there was demand from the workers. It is for this reason senior leaders in Rajasthan were asked to contest assembly elections.
KS: What are the principle issues in Rajasthan? AP: Rajasthan is suffering from rural distress. There are issues related to MSP and electricity as well. The state is also suffering from unemployment. Previous government could not deliver on its promises. Demonetisation further impacted the job market in the state. Even small business suffered in Rajasthan. Another big issue in Rajasthan is that of education. Today, 23,000 schools are non-functional and thousands of teachers are unemployed. Government is also trying to run government schools through PPT model and wants to hand over command of them to private players which is not correct. It has adversely impacted the educational infrastructure in the state. Our government was in the state till 2013 and we especially focused on health care in the rural areas which has now been discontinued. The new policies which came into effect added to the strain on common man’s pocket. It did not benefit the poor. It only helped few insurance companies and doctors.
KS: When you took over the reign of the state Congress, what were the challenges you encountered? AP: First thing I did was to focus on the organisation at the booth level. We started a number of programs to strengthen workers at the booth level, then we worked on the membership drive in the state. Mera Booth Mera Gaurav was our flagship program which was organised all across the state where we educated and trained our booth level workers. We involved leadership from across the state. The face of the young is Sachin, while Ashok Gehlot has vast experience and we were successful in harnessing them on the ground. It helped energise the workers.
KS: There are a lot of positive reports from Rajasthan unlike other states where the Congress is fighting. Why is the Rajasthan story different from other states? AP: It has happened because workers and leaders are fighting elections together. It is for this reason we are doing well in the state. People also realised that they made a mistake in voting for BJP in 2013 and 2014 elections.
KS: Are demonetisation and GST issues in the current election? AP: Absolutely. Demonetisaion increased unemployment. Governance is an issue in the state. No one feels secure in the state. Even law and order is an issue in the state. Mineral resources and forests resources have been pilfered in the state. On top of it, corruption is an issue in the state. Those who were asked by the government to sidestep the issue of corruption ended up getting tickets from the party to contest and became faces of the BJP in the current assembly elections.
WION speaks with Avinash Pande, the Congress' general secretary in charge of Rajasthan before the upcoming elections in the state.