Sachin Pilot was the pivot that steered the Congress to power in Rajasthan assembly polls last year. Pilot, who went on to become the deputy chief minister, is confident the Congress-led UPA will form a government at the Centre after the Lok Sabha polls. His confidence level is so high that he expects the party to sweep all the 25 Lok Sabha seats in his home state.
In an interview with Onmanorama after attending an event organised by the All India Professionals' Congress (AIPC) in Thiruvananthapuram recently, Pilot said the upcoming Lok Sabha elections will be fought on two key issues – agrarian distress and unemployment.
How many seats will the Congress win in Rajasthan?
All 25. We will win all the seats.
You said (during the AIPC event) that the UPA will come back to power after the general elections. What makes you so confident?
In the last five years, I have witnessed a lot of failed promises. The BJP said they will double the farmers' income, put Rs 15 lakh each to people's bank accounts and bring minimum government and maximum governance etc. On the contrary we had to face the illogical step of demonetisation, farmers are committing suicides and joblessness reached the highest mark in the last four decades. The economy is suffering and so are the youth. The BJP is answerable for all these.
Five years ago, I didn't know the word 'mob lynching' even existed. That is a reality today. Issues of ghar wapsi, love jihad and mandir and masjid have been brought to the fore to cover up the BJP's follies of the last five years. The young people and the Indian voters have seen through it. Propaganda, chest thumping and divisive politics are not the way forward for this country. They systematically dismantled almost all the institutions, be it the Planning Commission, CBI, RBI or ED, that we held sacrosanct for 70 years. This constant attack on the foundations of our institutions is an unhealthy sign for our democracy.
Therefore I'm confident that the five years of BJP government will be judged and ultimately will be voted out.
How far has the Congress been able to regain lost ground in the Hindi heartland?
In the elections in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the Congress defeated the BJP. That's why the BJP is desperate to stitch up alliances, giving up more seats than it would have ever thought of doing. For example in Bihar, Nitish Kumar has two MPs, but they will be contesting in 17 seats. They have conceded almost all seats in Tamil Nadu and agreed for just four seats. Despite attacks everyday by Shiv Sena, the BJP tied up with that party in desperation. After the three elections, the BJP is on a weak wicket. All these circumstances point to the fact that there will be a change of government and a new prime minister will be in power.
After the air strikes in Balakot, the atmosphere in the country was charged with jingoism. Don't you think it will help the BJP?
The action of the armed forces is not the action of a political party. Be it Vajpayee supporting Indira Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi supporting Vajpayee or the current prime minister getting support from all quarters of the country -- that's a remarkable tradition in our democracy. The government of the day gets full support for an action like this. But when leaders like Yeddyurappa and others make political statements based on those incidents, it's unbecoming of a ruling party.
The action by the armed forces is a commendable one and we will continue to support them. The valour they displayed is unmatched. 1.3 billion people are supporting it. To politicise it and to spread fake news about it is something the ruling party should refrain from doing.
You spoke a lot about unemployment during the event.
It's a reality today. People have lost jobs. The country is facing a job crisis and nothing is being done to address it. The Skill India movement that they started five years ago is a complete failure. The idea is good – to train people and give them jobs. But on the ground what is happening is the government is busy doing other things. The government is busy politicising Ram temple and other issues. Various BJP leaders are discussing which caste Lord Hanuman belongs to and things like that. There is a lot of rhetoric and propaganda and divisive politics as against government's policy making and delivery on the ground.
What are the key issues that would be decisive in the LS polls?
The election will be fought on two major issues. One is agrarian distress and the second is the unemployment and underemployment of the people.
How do you look at Rahul Gandhi's promise of minimum income for the poor?
It's something that will come up in our manifesto. A universal basic income is not just an idea. It's a foolproof plan and it's practical. We would not have made the announcement unless we have made a thorough study on how to execute that. It's also something for the urban parts of India. The MNREGA was started in the rural parts. Universal basic income is not something new but only the Congress with its commitment and capability can execute that idea.
How many seats do you expect for the UPA this time?
The alliances are almost stitched up, except for a few states. I believe we will have a comfortable majority. The BJP must understand that they won 282 seats (in 2014) but lost about 10 in the bypolls. They lost almost all by-elections. The results of the last three state polls are also a sign of the things to come. The landscape is shifting very fast. People have tried and given the BJP a fair chance but they have failed to deliver. So we will have a new government and a new PM in May 2019.
BJP is desperate to get a foothold in Kerala. Their agitation over the Sabarimala issue was very aggressive.
If BJP wants to enter into Kerala politics, it must come up with programmes and policies. It can't use violence and religious issues to get a foothold in Kerala politics.
Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly been saying about giving more chances to youth and women.
That's why I'm sitting here (laughs).