Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot said BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s “flowery language” will not help the party win elections in the desert state. In an exclusive interview with Srinand Jha, he said the Congress will return to power with a two-thirds majority. Excerpts.
The BJP’s Vasundhara Raje has said your government remained inactive for four years and woke up only in the last year and announced welfare schemes with an eye on the elections.
Raje has brought down public debate to abysmally low levels. She said at one gathering that poison was being served under my government’s free medicine scheme. At another place, she said that ‘rabri’ (sweets) was distributed under the pension scheme. Is this the way a former chief minister should speak? Has anybody died in Rajasthan by consuming ‘poison’ instead of medicines? Raje and Narendra Modi are just playing to the gallery.
The Congress has worked for the ‘aam aadmi’, launching schemes for public welfare. Several of these were launched three or four years back and have started to show results. The electorate will give a fitting reply to the BJP. Like in 1998, the Congress will return to power with a two-thirds majority.
What impact can Modi have on the Rajasthan elections?
Modi is a non-entity here. Politics is different from a T-20 match. His smart-talk will not help. A country cannot be run by just the use of flowery language. After his projection as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, it has become clear that he has become the ‘mukhota’ (mask) of the RSS. The BJP has become irrelevant and might as well shut shop.
Raje says your government launched a witch-hunt by setting up the justice NN Mathur commission to investigate corruption cases against her, but that it failed to establish anything.
The Mathur Commission was not set up under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, as I did not want to set a precedent of summoning an ex-chief minister before a commission. The charges are now being investigated by the Lokayukta. The scams that happened during her tenure will come out shortly.
It is being said that CP Joshi will become the next chief minister, in case the Congress wins.
The Congress does not have a tradition of projecting a chief minister. The Congress legislature party (CLP) and the party high command decide on the leader after the elections. Joshi and I are old colleagues and there are no differences between us. Such talk is just a creation of the media. My focus is simply on winning the elections.
Modi has an image of being pro-development. What do you think of his claim that Gujarat’s minorities support him?
This is all the corporate-sponsored media hype. Rajasthan is among the three states with the lowest number of unemployed and is ahead of both Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat in terms of overall development. As for Modi’s acceptability among the minorities, former PM AB Vajpayee had described the 2002 Gujarat riots as a “blot on humanity” and castigated Modi for not following the “Raj dharm” (rule of law). Senior BJP leader LK Advani has serious reservations about Modi. Raje herself has been on the move in the last four years — from London to Delhi, Mumbai and Dehradun. The BJP will be soundly rejected.