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'I Can Break Congress Anytime'

Rajasthan chief minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat appears unfazed by the host of problems the BJP faces in the state. Excerpts:

'I Can Break Congress Anytime'
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How has the addition of 14 MLAs to the Congress ranks affected your government and party?

None of the MLAs who joined the Congress was ours. Out of a house of 194, we have 96 MLAs and 15 independents, a total of 111. A clear majority. There's no effect on our party but (laughs) wait and see the effect on the Congress.

Natwar Singh is said to have been behind this exercise.

My good friend Natwar Singh thinks he can become chief minister of Rajasthan by doing all this, but he's damaging his own chances. This will create infighting in the Congress over the question of giving tickets to these people.

I can break the Congress in Rajasthan at any time. But that may create trouble for me, because unlike Natwar, I'll have to live up to any promises I make. He can always say 'Sonia did not agree' to give tickets. This much I will tell you—mein Congress mein saynd laga raha hoon. Saavdhaan karkay saynd laga raha hoon (I am warning Congress I'm going to breach its walls).

There's talk of more independents joining the Congress. Has the tide turned against the BJP?

No such thing. No one is going. Different factors were operating during the general elections. The third force, which normally commands 14 per cent of the vote-share, lost three per cent to the Congress and created a swing in its favour. This time, there is no third force and it will be a direct fight between the BJP and Congress.

You have been resorting to populist measures like octroi abolition, revenue adalats...

In the last five years, I have not presented a single budget which does not propose new programmes. The difference is that with the BJP at the Centre, we can push through programmes which had been stalled.

Does your refusal to go to the Cen-tre have anything to do with the absence of second-rung leaders?

Leaders emerge when necessary and we have enough talent. When I became chief minister in 1977, I had no experience of administration, yet we ran the government with record efficiency. The BJP has an identity in Rajasthan and I am only part of that identity.

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