The Congress on Thursday asserted it can win the Rajasthan assembly elections provided there is unity and warned of strict action against those not maintaining discipline and speaking outside the party forum. The party, however, indicated that it may not declare a chief ministerial face for the polls due later this year.
The Congress claimed that it has resolved all issues while seeking to end talks of differences between Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot, who have often had a go against each other in public.
Everyone is of the view that they need to work together to buck the trend of the ruling party being voted out of power in the state, it said.
All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge organisation KC Venugopal told reporters after the party’s strategy meeting on election preparedness in Rajasthan that all leaders agreed that the Congress could win the assembly polls slated later this year provided there is complete unity.
He, however, refrained from commenting on any peace formula between Chief Minister Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot.
“Our history is known, we never announce the chief ministerial candidate, but we will fight the election together and unitedly,” Venugopal said when asked under whose leadership the party will contest the upcoming polls.
The party also said that it will decide its candidates for the state polls by the first week of September and winnability will be the only criterion for their selection. Congress leaders will also hit the ground from Friday through a house-to-house campaign to take schemes of the government to the people, it said.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, former party chief Rahul Gandhi, AICC in-charge for Rajasthan Sukhjinder Randhawa, Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president Govind Dotasra, Pilot, and several MLAs and ministers from the state were present at the meeting at the AICC headquarters here. Gehlot, who is recovering from injuries to his toes, attended the meeting via video conferencing.
Sources said there was a frank discussion about the Congress’s chances in the upcoming polls and the situation on the ground with stress on selecting candidates on the basis of surveys keeping in mind the winnability factor.
They said that during the meeting, Gandhi told Gehlot that party workers must get their due in government and called for a “dynamic role” for them in the few months left before the assembly elections.
Venugopal said the meeting was a preparatory one about Rajasthan during which the party leadership took some important decisions about election management in the state and resolved all pending issues. “The Congress will fight unitedly, reverse the trend and repeat the Congress government in Rajasthan,” he said.
“We are very sure that the Congress will win in Rajasthan. The candidates’ selection will be on a winnability basis. We are holding several surveys to ascertain that. We will decide the party candidates in the first week of September,” Venugopal said and termed the meeting as “very successful and fruitful”.
Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Pilot expressed happiness that the AICC has taken cognisance of the issues raised by him about the welfare of youth and corruption under the previous Vasundhara Raje government and asserted the party will contest assembly polls unitedly to secure a massive victory.
The Congress government in Rajasthan is “serious” and will take action against all the corruption that has taken place under the BJP rule, he said.
On the campaign that will start on Friday, Venugopal said Congress MLAs, leaders, ground workers, and ministers will engage with all communities and social groups during the next 90 days.
He said discussions will be held on the party manifesto as well as the achievements of the Congress government in Rajasthan.
There will be greater emphasis on coordination between the party and the government, he asserted after the meeting in which 29 leaders from Rajasthan, including the chief minister, participated.
Venugopal said it was unanimously decided that “we have to win Rajasthan and we can win, provided there is unanimous unity in the Rajasthan Congress”. Earlier there were differences but in today’s meeting, all leaders said they will fight the elections with unity, the Congress leader noted.
“The party decided that from today onwards everybody should follow strict discipline. Whatever issues are there, they have to discuss them inside the party forum. Outside the party, nobody has the freedom to speak about inner-party politics, whether it is against the government or against the party. If anybody speaks outside, then there will be strict disciplinary action,” he said.
Venugopal said that all leaders are ready to fight the polls together and this is the message of the meeting. “All issues are settled and resolved, and we are going to win the elections,” he said.
Venugopal also announced that the Rajasthan government will soon bring new legislation on reforms in the Rajasthan Public Service Commission. The government is keen to tackle the issue of question paper leaks, on which new legislation will also come, he said. These were among the demands that Pilot had raised earlier.
He said Pilot also spoke very well and told the meeting that he is confident that “we will win in the state and the party will repeat its government there”.
Pilot said the party’s lawmakers and functionaries in Rajasthan will work together to ensure its victory in the upcoming assembly polls. He also said it discussed ways how to buck the trend of the state voting out incumbent governments.
Satisfied by the party’s actions and assurances over the issues raised by him, Pilot also said he would abide by the decision of Kharge, Gandhi, and the All India Congress Committee (AICC) on what role he would play going forward.
Gehlot and Pilot have been engaged in a power tussle since the Congress formed government in the state in 2018. In 2020, Pilot led a revolt against the Gehlot government after which he was removed from the posts of the party’s state unit president and deputy chief minister.
Last year, an attempt by the high command to effect a leadership change in Rajasthan had failed after Gehlot loyalists dug their heels in and did not allow a legislature party meeting to take place.
Pilot had last month defied a warning from the party and went ahead with a day-long fast targeting Gehlot over his “inaction” on alleged corruption during the previous Raje government.
Kharge has been chairing key strategy meetings with leaders of poll-bound states. He has already held separate meetings with leaders of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)