Real battle is to save democracy in country: Ashok Gehlot

 Real battle is to save democracy in country: Ashok Gehlot

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot spoke to HT about the resolution of the political crisis in the state, how his 100 supporters did not break rank, the return of his former deputy Sachin Pilot to the party fold, and what lies ahead for his government. Edited excerpts:

Now that the crisis in the state is over, are you relieved?

The current situation in the country and also in states clearly indicates that democracy is under threat. See what happened in Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Karnataka, and recently in Madhya Pradesh - democratically elected governments were ousted through money power. Everyone knows what is happening. We have won the first round, but there is a long battle ahead. Our battle is to save democracy and we will continue to fight this battle till we emerge victorious.

There are reports that legislators supporting you are not happy with the way the party resolved the issue and welcomed Sachin Pilot back. Is that correct?

The decision of the high command is final, and we all respect that. We thank the determination and grit of all our 100 legislators. The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and others tried everything to woo them, but they stood firm like a rock and not a single legislator broke ranks. I spoke to each one of them and pacified them. His sentiments are attached with the Congress.

I should also thank the people of Rajasthan for their support. They used to call our legislators and tell them that even if you have to stay together for months, do that, but ensure that the BJP does not succeed in its nefarious designs. It is unprecedented in the Indian history that so many legislators stayed together for such a long period. His only aim and motive was to save the government.

Will you still go ahead with the floor test now that you are comfortably placed?

We will decide that once the assembly session starts. That is a call we will have to take.

Are you ready to forgive the rebel Congress legislators who are back in the party fold now?

We have to show large-heartedness when democracy is in danger. I believe in the concept of forgive and forget. The high command has taken a conscious and well thought out decision and all of us are with the high command.

Some of your party leaders claim that it is not all over yet. They say there will be other attempts to destabilise your government. Are you prepared to counter any such move?

I know it is a long battle but we are ready to face any challenge and defeat the BJP in carrying out its anti-democratic steps.

The BJP had also shifted some of its legislators to Gujarat. Were your party colleagues in touch with some of them?

The BJP was trying to break us and indulged in horse-trading, but it is also facing massive internal factional fights. They were scared that some of their legislators might break away due to factionalism. There were some in the BJP who did not want the party to topple the government because it has never been a tradition in Rajasthan.

A few days ago, I wrote a two-page letter to BJP legislators stating that once some BJP members were trying to topple the Bhairon Singh Shekhawat government. I told them that I, as state Congress president at the time, wrote to Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao and Rajasthan Governor Bali Ram Bhagat, saying that we are not part of the bid to topple Shekhawat’s government. I have always been against any move to oust a democratically elected government. So, I wrote to them to take that into consideration. The BJP also canceled its meeting today as it is clearly on a back foot.

Your party leaders are giving credit to Rahul Gandhi for resolving the crisis. What do you have to say?

Both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi played an active role. It is laudable and shows their leadership qualities. The party has also formed a three-member committee to address the issue. I welcome that decision also.

Sachin Pilot is saying that derogatory remarks were used against him by you - you said he was good for nothing - but he did not reciprocate?

As I said earlier, it is time for everyone to move on and strengthen the party and the government in Rajasthan.

Will you welcome Pilot back into your government, should the situation arise?

A three-member committee is being formed by the Congress president. It will decide on this, along with the party high command.

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