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Interview: ‘BJP leaders willing to join us; it has to be unconditional’

In an interview with Sachin Saini, Pande spoke on the Congress’ ‘Mission 25’ and other issues.

lok sabha elections Updated: Mar 16, 2019 10:12 IST
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
All India Congress Committee general secretary,Rajasthan incharge for the Lok Sabha elections,Avinash Pande
Avinash Pande, AICC GEneral Secretary and incharge Rajasthan.(HT)

All India Congress Committee general secretary and Rajasthan incharge for the Lok Sabha elections, Avinash Pande says people are fed up with the Modi government and are looking for a change. In an interview with Sachin Saini, Pande spoke on the Congress’ ‘Mission 25’ and other issues. Edited excerpts:

What is your strategy for ‘Mission 25’?

As you know recently assembly elections were held and people of Rajasthan expressed faith in Congress leadership and policies, as they believe in our working and performance. People believed that Congress can bring them out of their agony which they suffered during the BJP regime.

Our target is to reach out to people and give them the same confidence. The fact is that the situation at the centre is worse than the situation in Rajasthan’s BJP government. PM Narendra Modi is running the government on catchphrases and assurances, and decision taken by them such as demonetisation and GST had led to a negative impact on people – factories have closed, purchasing power and productivity reduced, there’s an increase in unemployment. Agenda of Modi government nationwide is that in name of nationalism and Hindutva communal harmony and brotherhood has been disturbed. If we combine the statement and confusion among the people – BJP’s agenda is to change history of freedom and the country with their definition of Hinduism and patriotism, which is creating confusion and sense of insecurity in society.

In the past when Congress ruled Rajasthan, the party never won more than 20 Lok Sabha seats. What will change the situation this time?

People’s confidence and their suffering in last five years. The kind of sentiments are there, border and military actions are politicised to divert people from basic issues. The Modi government has failed on all fronts, be it farmer agony, youth employment, infrastructure (works started and launched during Congress and UPA government were stalled). The intentions of this government were not clear, which adversely affected development. On the other hand, incidents of lynching or killing of bovines were linked with communal agenda.

Do you think recent incidents on border will favour BJP?

I don’t think so. People of the country are intelligent and understand it. This might affect for some time, but not for long. Earlier, Indira Gandhi divided Pakistan, around lakh commander surrendered –what happened recently is country’s pride, shouldn’t Modi also mention what happened in past by Indira Gandhi? Modi is politicising what happened at the border. This is the concern for everyone. Anyone who attacks our country or freedom, every citizen or political party is united.

Is Congress questioning army’s action?

Nobody is questioning. This is misinterpreted, everything is twisted wrongly. When entire world is asking, it is question on credibility of the country. If some foreign media or leaders are asking to justify as different versions are published (regarding the Balakot air strikes), it is the responsibility of the country and not of a single person to reply.

Your government (in the state) has barely been there for three-four months, what do you think has worked in your favour in this short time?

The promises made to the people, especially during the election campaign. I think sincerely and honestly, the Congress government has not only tried (to fulfil them) but also on field showed them the decision taken in last two months such as on loan waiver, restart of major infrastructure projects and unemployment allowance. Government is doing its best, which has boosted the party’s morale and confidence of people.

How many MLAs will be fielded in the LS and new faces?

Efforts are on to field best candidates and that include MLAs also. There are many functionaries in the party; target is to field good and winnable candidates, who can serve the nation. The process is on and final discussions will be taken by the Central Election Committee.

In general, the trend is that the party introduces new faces on around a dozen seats, will this be continued? What about opportunity to women?

Definitely, there will be new faces. Women will also be there. Our efforts are there, but focus is on winning prospect; wherever such women candidates will be, they will be given preference.

Is the party expecting some ‘export’ from BJP? If yes, will they be contesting?

There are requests from senior leaders and in coming days you will hear the names. They are joining, but it has to be unconditional. But if the party feels that they can be better candidate, they can be considered.

On many instances the CM and Deputy CM had mention about their cordial relations. What is the need to clarify?

Because… that is the only thing which media is trying to play in the hands of Modi and BJP for last few years. The way it is played in media every day, they have all the right to clarify their position.

What all challenges are you facing for Lok Sabha election? Is it becoming difficult to identify candidates with prominent leaders entering the assembly?

People who have been elected as MLA…this is Congress party, we do not have dearth of winnable leaders in every constituency. As they are known faces, people in general have more expectations or confidence, but fortunately in second line there are good leaders, where the senior have role to encourage and promote them. We are playing a balanced role, consulting all leaders and wherever there is winnability by introducing new faces, party can perform better, will be fielded. We are looking at leaders who have worked for the organisation, popular among the people and can serve for long.

First Published: Mar 16, 2019 10:12 IST