A week since the results came out, Outgoing Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is more cheerful than before --- and says he has no regrets about his decision to contest the presidential elections though he has learnt a lot from the drubbing he got.
No, he is not backing up his bags to return to a familiar Rajasthan. Instead, he is putting his poll defeat behind him, and looking forward to an active political future – one beyond the BJP and the saffron world.
In his first interview since the results, Shekhawat said he intends to tour all over the country, meet people, MPs and MLAs – all of whom he did not meet for the election but contacted on the phone.
Secondly, he says, he will focus on issues like poverty, corruption, agricultural crisis, foeticide and employment that engaged his attention during his term as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha and his earlier years as Chief Minister of Rajasthan.
"No, I am not going back to Rajasthan," said the 84-year-old leader to Hindustan Times as he sat with his aides in one of the makeshift rooms adjoining the Vice-President's 6 Maulana Azad Road bungalow.
"I will stay put it in Delhi. Once I move into 31, Aurangazeb Road residence and my things are settled, I will be free to travel. That should be done in a month's time," he said.
Does it mean he will return to the BJP? Parrying the question, Shekhawat says there is no bar on his return to politics. "But, I am not looking at things from a political angle. I am looking at ways I can spread awareness about issues – the issues we talk in Parliament, the issues that need immediate attention and the issues where people can shape better response and solutions."
Asked if he has joined the ranks of senior BJP leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee who remain in the reckoning for a bigger role, Shekhawat said, "please do not make me a candidate for another post. I have just ended my role as a candidate. Now, people are the candidates in my scheme of things."
Shekhawat said he had no grouse against anyone for having lost the presidential poll. "I think it is the first time, a presidential election became a matter of public interest and wide discussion took place at people's level. The issues that came to the fore are not going to die down. I have got so many letters and phone calls after my defeat. Their expression of support is my strength and encouragement for a new beginning."
What was the most surprising thing for him in the recent days? "People who came to me, saying that I should contest and later turned cold… You… the media should find out why they abstained when they were too keen that I should win," Shekhawat says with a chuckle. "Please don't ask me the names. You find out."
Shekhawat said, "Henceforth, I am going to be concerned with issues and not with political positions. I had made it clear in my statement that I gave on the day I quit as VP."
Shekhawat had said he accepted his defeat with "all humility" and that he would continue to "work for the uplift of poor and deprived sections of the society so that they can enjoy their fundamental rights with dignity."