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Chance conversation with the PM sealed Shekhawat’s place in Team Modi

Gajendra Singh Shekhawat told Modi, during an appointment, about his initiative to bring together a young team of IITs, IIMs, NLUs and AIIMS alumni working on fresh ideas for nation building.

india Updated: Sep 04, 2017 19:50 IST
Rakesh Goswami
Rakesh Goswami
Jaipur, Hindustan Times
Reshuffle of Modi cabinet,Cabinet reshuffle,Narendra Modi
Bhartiya Janata Party politician Gajendra Singh Shekhawat takes oath during the swearing-in ceremony of new ministers at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi on Sunday.(AP)

It was serendipity that might have played a role in the induction of Gajendra Singh Shekhawat into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers.

The 49-year-old Member of Parliament from Jodhpur, who does not get along with Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, got an appointment with the prime minister before the Budget Session to discuss an issue of his constituency.

Shekhawat finished talking about it in 30 seconds. The appointment was for two minutes. The PM casually asked him about anything special he was doing. Shekhawat told him about his initiative to bring together a young team of alumni of IITs, IIMs, NLUs and AIIMS, who were working on fresh ideas for nation building.

The PM was impressed: He heard Shekhawat for seven minutes before asking him to meet his principal secretary about his project.

A few days later, he was informed that the PM wanted him to make a presentation about his project before the party parliamentarians. The PM introduced his project and then sat down with the members of LS and RS to listen to the detailed presentation that lasted eight minutes.

The PM asked questions twice and was so impressed with the initiative that he asked other MPs to also think out of the box ideas like Shekhawat’s.

On August 27, as the chief guest at a workshop on developmental journalism, the Jodhpur MP narrated this incident to a group of journalists.

Many in the audience told him he will find the pride of place in Team Modi during the next expansion. Shekhawat had only smiled at the suggestion.

The MP has been associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since his student politics days at Jodhpur’s Jai Narain Vyas University. He has been engaging with the youth on Q&A microblogging site Quora for a long time. “That’s the best platform to propagate your ideology,” he said at the workshop.

Shekhawat is the most popular Indian politician on Quora with 57,968 followers. His replies on the site have been viewed more than 5.8 million times, more than former US President Barrack Obama’s answers.

Shekhawat worked with Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the economic wing of the Sangh, and Seema Jan Kalyan Samiti, an organisation working in border towns and villages. He is usually seen wearing cotton trousers with shirt not tucked in.

As for his Rajput caste being a factor in his selection, Shekhawat’s childhood friend and political activist Rajendra Singh Bhiyad says: “It is true that the state government is facing Rajput ire over a series of incidents, including the killing of gangster Anandpal Singh in a police encounter, but Shekhawat wasn’t picked up to assuage the Rajputs; the PM was impressed with his work among the youth.”

If Rajput was a factor, the PM had already promoted Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and did not need to include one more from the community into his team, Bhiyad reasoned.

First Published: Sep 04, 2017 19:50 IST