'Absolutely okay' with party decision, have to work for ensuring victory of all candidates: Pilot on ticket to Gehlot loyalist

'Absolutely okay' with party decision, have to work for ensuring victory of all candidates: Pilot on ticket to Gehlot loyalist

Indore, Nov 14 (PTI) Days after the Congress fielded Ashok Gehlot loyalist Shanti Dhariwal from the Kota North seat in Rajasthan, senior leader Sachin Pilot on Tuesday said he was 'absolutely okay' with whatever decision the party has taken as dwelling on the past is not productive.

The ticket distribution was by and large 'very fair' with the winnability factor adhered to, he said, adding the priority now was to work for ensuring the victory of all candidates selected by the party.

In an interview with PTI on board a flight from Delhi to Indore in Madhya Pradesh where he will be on a campaign trail for two days, Pilot said he was working in Rajasthan with the mantra of 'forgive, forget and move on' as advised by party chief Mallikarjun Kharge and former AICC president Rahul Gandhi.

Asked about Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's past barbs such as 'nikamma' directed at him, Pilot said, 'Leave it! Who said what I can be responsible for what I have said or not said. We should maintain dignity in political discussions.' 'Whoever said all those words you mentioned, I did not respond in kind because it is not the way I am built and we now have to move on, let bygones be bygones, whatever was said, we need to forget and move forward. It is not about individuals or positions or someone's words and statements now. It is about the country and the party,' Pilot said.

He also said who gets what position is 'not decided by an individual' and the longstanding tradition in the Congress was that newly-elected MLAs and the leadership in Delhi take a call after getting a majority.

The Congress has not declared a CM face in the state. Asked if Gehlot, by virtue of being the incumbent, does have a head start, Pilot said, 'It is not a race where someone has a head start or a late start. It is a process.' 'We have never gone with a declared chief ministerial candidate. That has not been the tradition of the Congress. It has been clarified by the AICC. We are fighting as a united force, party must get to the majority mark, once we do that, then discussions will happen and MLAs who have won elections will give their opinion and the Delhi leadership will decide who will get what position, who will be the leader of the legislature party,' the former deputy CM told PTI.

'As far as the CM post is concerned, that decision lies with the leadership in Delhi and of course the opinion of the workers and the MLAs. So it is a very smooth process that has happened many times before and this time is no different,' he said.

Asked about the voices of dissent following the announcement of the Congress candidates' lists, the former deputy chief minister said it is a good thing when a political party has a problem of plenty i.e. more people wanting a ticket for the same seat.

'Ultimately, the party can give a ticket only to one individual. So after a lot of feedback, surveys, opinion of leaders, we gave tickets on winnability. It is not possible to satisfy everybody. By and large the distribution of tickets is very fair,' he said.

'I have always wanted more younger people to get opportunities to fight elections and a lot of younger people have been given a chance this time. Overall there are a lot more pulls and pressures and infighting after the announcement of the BJP lists,' Pilot said.

Asked specifically about Shanti Dhariwal's ticket from Kota North. Pilot said, 'I don't want to go into the allocation of (tickets to) individuals. Whoever the party felt was a winnable candidate whether X,Y or Z, that person was given the mandate after much consideration.' 'Ultimately, like I said, the final decision lies with the Congress president and the top leadership, whatever they have decided, we have to work and make sure those people win the elections,' he said.

Asked about the rebellion he led against the government led by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in 2020 and the events of September last year when Gehlot loyalists did not allow a legislature party meeting to take place, Pilot said the issues that he raised in 2020 were important for the party and people.

'There was a time when the Rajasthan government did not have a Dalit minister, today we have four Dalit ministers, workers who struggled against five years of Vasundhara Raje government, went to jail, faced lathi charges, those people should be rewarded, not by giving power and positions but by appreciating them, involving them in decision making, they becoming stakeholders in the government of the day. So that has happened now,' he told PTI.

The AICC at that point had made a committee to look into all the issues that were raised and 'I am happy that we moved forward', Pilot said.

The Congress last week fielded state Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dhariwal from the Kota North seat. The party did not give a ticket to Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's confidant and Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation Chairman Dharmendra Rathore.

Dhariwal and Rathore were among the three senior state leaders against whom the party's disciplinary committee had issued notices after they did not attend a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party in the state and held a parallel meeting of MLAs instead last year at Dhariwal's residence. A leadership change was on the cards at the legislature party meet.

Mahesh Joshi, the third leader who was issued a notice by the party's disciplinary committee, has also been denied a ticket for the Assembly polls.

Asked about the incident of Dhariwal and other Gehlot loyalists not allowing the legislature party meeting to take place last year, Pilot said it was not his area of work to determine what should have been done, it is of the AICC and the president.

The larger point is that what has happened in the past has happened in the past and one has to move forward, he said.

On the events of September last year when the legislature party meeting could not take place, Pilot said it was 'unfortunate' and pointed out that Chief Minister Gehlot himself had expressed regret for what happened.

'I was advised by Mr. Kharge and Mr. (Rahul) Gandhi to forgive, forget and move on. That's the mantra I am working with and that is the way everybody should be looking at things,' he said.

In reference to the query on Dhariwal getting the ticket, Pilot said, 'As far as giving a ticket is concerned, it is the decision of the party. In their wisdom, after having given due consideration to all the aspects, they decided to give tickets to people. Whatever decision the party has taken, I am absolutely okay with it.' 'Whoever has been nominated, we have to ensure their victory. Who said what, did what is all in the past, if you keep dwelling on it, it is not very productive especially during election time. We have to make our candidates win, that should be our priority,' Pilot asserted.

Asked about suggestions by some that his chances of becoming CM were hit by his 2020 rebellion, the Congress leader said, 'I don't think it is a question of my chance, your chance or his chance. Right now we have to make sure the Congress party wins.' 'Who gets what position is not decided by an individual. The longstanding tradition in the Congress party is that you fight elections, get a mandate, once you cross the majority mark, the MLAs and the leadership in Delhi will decide who will get what responsibility,” he said.

What happens in the future no one knows but right now our priority is and should be that the Congress party gets the mandate from the voters, Pilot said.

This nation needs a strong Congress and to build a strong Congress 'we have to win these state elections', he said.

'We have to win these states. These are heartland Hindi states where there is a bipolar contest. We won in Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, those victories have given Congress workers a lot of tailwind,' he said.

Pilot asserted that Rajasthan will go the Congress way. PTI ASK TIR TIR

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