File photo of Sachin Pilot. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
The Congress has kept open the issue of its leadership in Rajasthan.
Seeking to ensure a united fight to dislodge the ruling BJP from Rajasthan, the state Congress chief Sachin Pilot said on Tuesday that his party's MLAs will decide on the chief minister post and asserted that securing a "thumping" mandate was far more important than a decision on who will head the government.
Pilot said he as well as senior party leader Ashok Gehlot have got enough from the Congress in the past and it was now for the party to decide what role they should have.
There have been persisting talks about both Pilot and Gehlot being in race to be the party's chief ministerial face, even as both the leaders have repeatedly rejected any such friction.
In an interview to PTI here, Pilot said it was the party's stated policy for the last 70 years to not declare a CM face in the state and the priority was to ensure that Congress candidates win the elections to thwart the BJP's use of "money and muscle power".
Asked if a post-poll decision on the CM post may leave either Gehlot or him dissatisfied, Pilot said: "I don't think so. We have both received a lot from the party."
"He (Gehlot) has been chief minister twice already and he has got an important position in the party. I am (state) party president and I have been a minister. Both of us have got enough from the party and now it is time that the party decides what role they have in mind (for us)," the 41-year-old leader said.
Utimately, the MLAs in the Congress party will take a call as to who will head the government, he said.
"But, far more important than that is that we must get a good, clear, thumping majority, a resounding majority, because the message must go across the country that people - farmers, young people, women, backwards, tribals, everybody - will not take this kind of arrogant government and will make it accountable," Pilot said.
Forming the government is far more important than who will head it, he said.
"It is a decision that we have left to the party and it is nothing new for 70 years we have always had the same policy. I don't know why this time it has become so talked about. Every time we fight elections without announcing a CM face, and whenever we win, we elect a leader," Pilot said.
The Congress has kept open the issue of its leadership in Rajasthan. It has fielded both Pilot and Gehlot in the December 7 assembly polls.
While Gehlot, 67, is a sitting MLA from Sardarpura, Pilot is contesting the state poll for the first time from Tonk. Pilot has been a former MP from Dausa and then from Ajmer.
Pilot said the people of Rajasthan were looking at the Congress with hope as it had been "the people's voice" on the streets of Rajasthan in the last five years.
The Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee chief attacked the Vasundhara Raje government, alleging that it was "very arrogant", corrupt, and had betrayed the trust of the state's people.
"People have the confidence that the Congress party will not only just win the elections...To be able to form a government of the people, where people feel stakeholders in the collective governance structures and that is something that is very positive," he said.
Pilot alleged that there was anger against the Vasundhara government because of "non-delivery" after promising 611 things.
On the Vasundhara Raje versus Manvendra Singh contest in Jhalrapatan, he said he had taken out a 'Kisaan Nyaya Yatra' in that area some time back and there the "resentment" against Raje and her government was palpable.
"That area is really dissatisfied. Vasundhara ji's tenure is marked with very few successes and multiple failures. People want a change. Manvendra Singh ji is a good strong candidate. It will be an interesting election and I am hopeful that the Congress party will win," Pilot said.
Asked if he was satisfied with the Congress's progress under his tenure as RPCC chief, Pilot said he was "reasonably satisfied" with where the party was today.
He said five years ago when the party had lost the election and was reduced to 21 out of 200 MLAs, it looked a very "daunting task".
"I was given the challenge and the opportunity. I say this because it was challenging times when Modi ji had become PM and Vasundhara ji had become CM and Congress was down and out.
"Also, an opportunity because that is the time you can actually work, without attracting much attention, at the grassroots level, connect with workers, start focussing on panchayat elections, zila parishad elections, nagar palika elections, and those really form the bedrock from where you can launch for the Vidhan Sabha and Lok Sabha elections," he said.
Pilot also hailed the state Congress leaders for their cooperation in rebuilding the party "brick by brick".
However, he cautioned against complacency saying that they are within "striking distance" of winning and have to stay focussed on the booth management and polling. "Till the last vote is cast, we cannot take our eyes off the target," he asserted.