"Myth That BJP Undefeatable In North Busted": Sachin Pilot To NDTV

Sachin Pilot said, "You have to give credit. To say that the BJP did not win because of rebels would be unfair"

New Delhi:

A victory under his belt in Himachal Pradesh, Congress's Sachin Pilot, the party in-charge of the state, said that the "myth" of the BJP's invulnerability in north India is over. Gujarat, he said, was "different". Asked about the possibility that the Congress victory in Himachal is the fallout of the rift within the BJP, he insisted that the Congress deserves some credit.

"The PM was calling and asking the rebels to withdraw. You have to give credit. To say that the BJP did not win because of rebels would be unfair. The Defence minister, the Finance Minister, the UP Chief Minister -- all were there. We still managed to defeat them. It does say about the Congress win," Mr Pilot told NDTV in an exclusive interview.

The Congress victory in the northern state is seen as a silver lining as the results of three elections came in over two days. The party has performed abysmally in Gujarat, scraping up on 17 seat, less than a quarter of the 77 seats they won in 2017. In the Delhi civic polls, which had more voters than Himachal, the Congress won only nine seats.

The BJP today repeatedly pointed out that the Congress victory in Himachal was precariously perched on a less-than-one-per-cent extra vote share. Prime Minister Narendra Modi underscored that this minuscule swing only reflected Himachal's efforts to "keep the BJP in".

Mr Pilot, who was earlier lauded for his ground-level work in the 2018 assembly elections in Rajasthan, was credited by senior party leader Rajiv Shukla as having a "critical role" in the Himachal victory. Mr Pilot, he said, was "much in demand". He also spoke of the unity and cohesiveness in the state party, saying "There is no infighting, we all work together".

Asked about the rout in Gujarat, where his political rival and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot was in charge, Mr Pilot said the situation in the two states are different and the party needs to do some some "chintan" (thinking), and "go back to the drawing board".

He also played down the rift with Mr Gehlot, saying it was "fine to have different opinions".

Asked if he was over Mr Gehlot's "gaddar (traitor)" jibe, he said he would not be "provoked" by jibes.  "We have to move on. I can't control what other people say and do. We have to move forward and work together," added Mr Pilot.

Mr Pilot was seen as a key contributor to the Congress victory in Rajasthan in 2018. He has since been waiting for his reward. The post of Chief Minister went to veteran leader Ashok Gehlot, who later emerged the victor in their infrequent run-ins.