In run-up to Rajasthan elections, Sachin Pilot dismisses talks of rivalry with Ashok Gehlot

Rajasthan Congress president Sachin Pilot, 40, on Monday dismissed reports of rivalry between him and senior leader Ashok Gehlot and maintained that the party legislators and the central leadership will take a call on the state’s next chief minister after the elections (provided the Congress won).

Calling Gehlot a “seasoned and experienced” leader, Pilot said it was a “matter of pride” that Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is using the services of the former chief minister at the national level.

“We are very lucky that Mr Gandhi has chosen quite a few people from Rajasthan to do different things all over India. CP Joshiji is a general secretary, Mr Gehlot is in charge of the organisation in Delhi and Mr Gandhi is using his experience and services at the national level which is a matter of pride for all of us in Rajasthan,” Pilot told Hindustan Times in an interview.

Assembly elections are due in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram in November-December this year. Billed as semi-finals before the parliamentary elections next year, the state elections will witness a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP.

While chief minister Vasundhara Raje will lead the BJP in the upcoming polls, the Congress is unlikely to name its chief ministerial face in view of the apprehensions that the move could backfire given that both Gehlot and Pilot are claimants to the post.

But Pilot dismissed the suggestion. “None of us is vying for any position or post. What happens in the future, we don’t know. When we win the elections, the elected legislators of the party and the central leadership will decide who heads the government. But as of now, all of us are focused in winning the elections and that is a top priority,” he said.

Asked if he saw Gehlot as his rival in the party, Pilot said, “Not at all. In fact, everybody has worked together and I am one of the very few state presidents who got tremendous support and cooperation from all the leaders in Rajasthan. I am thankful to them because one person alone can’t change the fortune of a large party like ours. It has been a collective effort and our endeavour is to make sure that we win the elections which are important before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.”

He added, “Ashok Gehlotji is a committed soldier of the Congress party. He has worked for 30-40 years in the party. He has been given chance twice to become the chief minister and the now the party is using his services at the national level…. Who gets what job is the prerogative of the Congress president. We are all Congress volunteers and workers and whatever job is assigned to us, we all do it with complete honesty and dedication.”

Still, it isn’t as if Pilot agrees with everything Gehlot says.

Commenting on Gehlot’s comment in an interview to HT that young leaders should wait and not jump the queue, the former union minister said, “When Mr Gandhi is talking about breaking down the walls in the party, where is the question of having any queues?”

Pilot insisted that he has worked hard to ensure the Congress party’s revival in Rajasthan after the drubbing in the 2013 assembly elections. “We lost the last assembly elections and we lost them very badly. We accepted the defeat with full humility. We were reduced to 21 seats out of 200. But since then, there have been by-elections in 22 places and we won 20 of these. In the last four-and-a-half years, every single challenge that I was faced with from civic elections to Lok Sabha by-polls, we have delivered and come out with flying colours…thanks to the hard work of party workers and leaders,” he said.

“As far as I am concerned, I became a Member of Parliament at the age of 26, at 31 I became a union minister and at the age of 35 years I was asked to take over the reins of the party in a state where we were relegated to very a poor position. I have got a lot from the party and now is the time for me to give back to the Congress and I have done that with complete honesty and dedication,” he said.

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