Buoyed by the Rajasthan bypoll results, Congress state unit chief Sachin Pilot said today the victory would also have a bearing on the upcoming elections in other states as the “myth” of the BJP being an election-winning machine has been busted. Pilot, who spearheaded the campaign on the ground in Rajasthan where bypolls were held in two Lok Sabha constituencies and one Assembly seat, said the election results had sent out a message to the BJP that its “jumlebaazi” (rhetoric) would not work. He said the results had come at a time when the BJP was on the “back foot”. “The fact that they were forced to make a so-called pro farmer budget shows that the agrarian distress all over India is having its impact and the BJP will have to pay a heavy price for it,” Pilot told PTI in an interview here. The Congress put up a strong performance in Rajasthan where its candidates wrested the Alwar and Ajmer Lok Sabha and Mandalgarh Assembly seats from the BJP by impressive margins last week. Pilot, who is largely seen as the Congress’s chief ministerial face in Rajasthan, said the elections were “very crucial” as they came just seven or eight months before Assembly polls in the state, slated to be held by the end of this year.
“These by-elections are a very positive indication for the times to come, and not just in Rajasthan but in other states also. I think it will have a good bearing on the Karnataka polls that are coming up,” the 40-year-old leader said, adding the myth that the BJP was an election-winning machine had been busted. Noting that bypolls have historically been won in the state by the ruling dispensation, Pilot said the mandate that the Congress received was not just a rejection of the Vasundhara Raje government but an approval of the Congress’s stand on various issues and policies.
“The myth that the BJP is an election-winning machine and cannot be defeated at the hustings at the booth level, that myth has been put to rest now. “The whole pracharak, vistarak and the booth management… take pride in saying that they are the best apparently… (It) has now been proven that we can defeat them if the Congress party workers work with zeal,” Pilot said. Asked whether the Congress would name a chief ministerial candidate before the polls in Rajasthan, Pilot said, “We as a party have traditionally not done this. The BJP takes pride in doing this but have not done it in Rajasthan.”
“In our party, the elected MLAs will decide and the leadership will decide who will form the government. The singular job at our hand is to win the state elections. Collective efforts of all leaders are towards that,” he said. He also asserted that there was no factionalism in the state unit of the party and all leaders were united in their objective of defeating the BJP in Rajasthan. The margin of victory registered by the Congress had been striking with its candidate Karan Singh Yadav trouncing his nearest BJP rival Jaswant Yadav by 1,96,496 votes in Alwar, and the main opposition party’s nominee for Ajmer Raghu Sharma beating BJP’s Swaroop Lamba by over 84,414 votes. The Congress’s Vivek Dhakad won the Mandalgarh Assembly seat, defeating his nearest BJP rival Shakti Singh Hada by nearly 13,000 votes.
Asked if the mandate was against the Raje government or the BJP-led government at the Centre, Pilot said, “You cannot segregate. This is a mandate against the BJP.” “Governance has failed in Rajasthan. But the larger BJP policies of the GST, ‘notebandi’ (demonetisation)… have had their impact,” he said. He also alleged the BJP attempted to polarise the polls and divert the campaign discourse from the main issues. “I must salute the people of Rajasthan that they did not allow this communal and venomous politics to take centre-stage… The BJP’s desperate attempt at the fag end to communalise (the bypolls) came a cropper,” Pilot said.
He pointed out there were eight Assembly segments in each parliamentary seat and the Congress won all the eight in Alwar and in Ajmer. “So it shows that even the urban centres where we were not so strong conventionally, those people — the middle class, young people — have come strongly in the Congress’s fold. “With this victory on our shoulders we are going to work double hard and with more humility reach out to the people of Rajasthan and do a mass contact programme, so that we are able to get the blessings (of the people) eight months later,” he said.
Pilot claimed the tide was turning against the BJP and hailed Congress president Rahul Gandhi for taking on the BJP aggressively. “Every statement Mr Rahul Gandhi makes at least 15 ministers start challenging that, which shows the nervousness in the BJP camp at the way Mr Gandhi is attacking and aggressively campaigning,” he said. Gandhi had hailed the party’s Rajasthan unit for its impressive show, calling the outcome a “rejection” of the BJP by the people.