Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Union minister Shekhawat raises Modi pitch, hits out at Congress

Shekhawat holds 8-10 public meetings in a day and starts his speech with the slogan, ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat during his campaign(HT)
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat during his campaign(HT)
Published on Apr 21, 2019 02:30 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Jodhpur | By, Jodhpur

Like in other parts of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the mascot of the BJP campaign in the Jodhpur Lok Sabha constituency.

At almost all meetings, party candidate and union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat asks the crowd, “Keep your hand on your heart and tell, hasn’t Modi in the last five years brought pride and respect to the country globally? Those who feel so, raise hands.”

He greets the gathering with a smile and makes a special address to the elderly people sitting in the meetings. He obliges those waiting to get a selfie with him.

Shekhawat holds 8-10 public meetings in a day and starts his speech with the slogan, ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.

He lists achievements of the NDA government, such as opening of bank accounts, sanitation campaign, electricity to households and house to the poor, and misses no opportunity to hit out at the Congress. “Miffed with the performance of the UPA government, people gave a mandate to Modi, not just for power but to bring a change in their life,” Shekhawat said, addressing a gathering at Karwad village in the Luni assembly segment.

There is a pattern to the BJP campaign. Two teams of leaders move to every meeting with a time gap. A team comprising ex-MP Narayan Singh and local leaders arrives at the meeting venue first to build up a tempo. The other team with Shekhawat moves in a convoy, mostly SUVs, and reaches the venue after half an hour.

“These elections are important as during the 10 years of the UPA government, the country suffered from inflation, corruption, scams and so on. The then government failed on all fronts. Even the incidents with the army, such as beheading Indian soldiers, embarrassed the country. People then gave the mandate to Modi,” Shekhawat said. “This election is for the future, pride, respect and security of the country.”

At Daiger village, he said a party (referring to the Congress) ruled the country for 55 years and raised the slogan ‘Garibi Hatao’ (eradicate poverty). “Did they succeed?” he asked. “And then there is Modi who did what was considered impossible. Now it’s up to people whom to vote, those perform and deliver, or those who came to power after cheating?”

Taking a dig at the Congress government in Rajasthan, Shekhawat said, “Congress promised complete loan waiver but after coming to power, it placed the rider of eligibility; unemployment allowance is still awaited.”

The union minster, who was welcomed to the meeting venues with safa, garlands and beats of dhol-nagade, urged people to consider themselves as Modi for 10 days, campaign door to door and ensure cent percent voting.

Seeking for support for Shekhawat, senior BJP leaders said the election “is for swabhiman (self-respect)”, not of a constituency but the country. “Every person should work thinking himself as Modi and Gajendra Singh till April 29,” said Narayan Singh at a meeting in Karwad.

Shekhawat’s campaign staff are prepared to handle power cuts when the meeting is on and the leader is speaking – a portable battery-operated speaker and mike are put to use. During a power cut at Paldi Mangliya village where people weighed Shekhawat with jaggery, he said, “It will happen in the Congress raj (governance), but I do not need a mike as what I say is from the heart and you all hear it.” But the campaign staff were quick to bring in the emergency setup.

Asked what difference he sees in the last 50 years of elections, Pratap Singh in his late 80s said, “I was then 85 kilogram and now 35 kg. It’s the same; all come and give speeches. I vote for a party not a candidate.”

Ex-servicemen objected to the politicisation of the army. Asked about the Modi wave and surgical strike, Shrawan Singh, an ex-serviceman, said, “The election should be on issues, which is missing today. People do have a liking for Modi but the wave of the 2014 elections is not there this time.”

Pappu Lal, another ex-armyman who is more worried about water woes, said, “Army should not be politicised; this has never happened and shouldn’t be there. The speeches of politicians should unite people and not divide.”

Women said problems have not been addressed. “Government comes and goes but we still lack basic facilities. We want roads, water, schools with teachers and hospitals with doctors,” said Bhanwari Devi of Paladi village after listening to leaders seeking votes. “Vote is only for work and development.”


    Sachin Saini is Special Correspondent for Rajasthan. He covers politics, tourism, forest, home, panchayati raj and rural development, and development journalism.

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