It’s too risky to make glib predictions on the forthcoming assembly elections in Rajasthan, but chief minister Ashok Gehlot seems confident that he’s done all he can for the ruling Congress to stand a good chance. In an interview to Panini Anand, he accuses the BJP of divisive politics. He also says that many of the schemes his government formulated have been picked up by BJP-ruled states, including Gujarat.
You are accused of riding on populism.
Even BJP-ruled states, Gujarat included, have benefited from the UPA’s so-called populism. Many of these schemes—NREGA, RTI and now, the Right to Hearing—were first launched in Rajasthan. These were then replicated at the national level and in other states. They are all meant for the public good. I think it’s unfair to call them populist.
The BJP has levelled several charges of corruption against your government.
(Laughs) The BJP leader (former chief minister Vasundhararaje) at least cannot speak of corruption. Many who used to control the state during her regime are wanted in various cases now. Indeed, BJP leaders themselves, including the late Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, had accused her government of corruption. All that they could come up with against me are some Facebook ‘likes’. They are the experts and must have engineered it themselves. My government is corruption-free.
It is said that the leaders of various caste blocs—Jats, Gujjars and Meenas—are unhappy with your government.
My personal relations with them, be it Kirodi Lal Meena or Kirori Lal Bainsla, are excellent. And those who make this allegation would do well to recall that the BJP government had opened fire on these people more than 20 times. Around 100 people, including 70 Gujjars, had died in police firing. Under this government, not a single bullet has been fired.
Your critics say your government did not function during the first four years.
I concede that point. Some people tried to destabilise the government and create the impression that its fall was imminent. Both internal and external forces were at work, but we overcame them. On the contrary, we provided better governance, presented surplus budgets. Some of our schemes were adopted even by Gujarat.
If you are hinting at infighting, is the internal crisis in Congress a worry?
By and large, all is well. Yes, there have been disagreements in the past and the media magnified them. But Congress workers in the state are united.
The BJP alleges that the implementation of schemes is poor.
If the implementation is so bad, what are they worried about? Schemes take time to conceive and get implemented. They cannot be implemented overnight. They are worried over the schemes’ popularity.
The BJP says Modi is the role model for the state and the country. Gujarat being a neighbouring state, will he be a factor in the next election?
I pray to God that the so-called Modi-model does not have to be followed in any state or country. It is not a model. It is marketing. A fake, third-party-based marketing. Desperate people go to any extent, be it communal violence or spreading rumours. They have brought up the Ram mandir issue as well...so their desperation is evident. And they have been unmasked by their own leader (L.K. Advani).
People compare your two terms and say that you were more effective in the first, when you did not allow Praveen Togadia (the VHP leader) to address public meetings. Your present term is marked by the firing at the Gopalgarh mosque.
Comparisons are odious. If I was better in my first tenure, why did we fail to retain power then? The Gopalgarh firing was a mistake by the police but we didn’t allow riots to take place.