By Santosh Kumar Pathak
New Delhi, Jun 6 (IANS): Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who hails from Rajasthan, has said that the upcoming Assembly elections in the desert state will be contested on the persona of the BJP's most popular face -- Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- adding that the saffron party's Parliamentary Board will take a call on the chief ministerial candidate.
During a conversation with IANS, Shekhawat -- the Lok Sabha MP from Jodhpur -- spoke on several issues, including the infighting in the Congress camp in Rajasthan where the Ashok Gehlot-led government is in power, groupings in the BJP, and the 'competition' with ex-Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje.
Here are some excerpts:
IANS: You had defeated Ashok Gehlot's son in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Since then, Gehlot seems to have upped his ante against you. It is also said that when it comes to targetting all other BJP leaders, Gehlot is more aggressive against you.
Shekhawat: I was elected by the people of Jodhpur. I was blessed by the electorate, and the Narendra Modi government had come to power once again. As a result of the people's verdict, I had to face some harsh words from Gehlot, but he is welcome (to speak). He should keep talking.
IANS: It is being said in Rajasthan that Gehlot is viewing you as a chief ministerial candidate, and may be for that reason, he is already considering you as a potential contender...
Shekhawat: I do not think from that perspective. But I do agree that in the western part of Rajasthan, where Gehlot emerged as a powerful leader by crushing his heavyweight political opponents, I gave him a run for his money. So, I believe it is obvious for him to act and speak the way he has been doing against someone who challenged him.
IANS: A tooth and nail contest is said to be on the cards this time between the Congress and the BJP in Rajasthan. And, the road ahead for your party also does not look to be quite smooth...
Shekhawat: Well, people are upset with Gehlot on several issues, mainly over the promises made to the farmers and the youth not being fulfilled, exam paper leaks and the emergence of mafias. Today, the common people are also scared.
The government has been focusing more on holding on to its power than focusing on taking care of the deteriorating law and order situation in the state. Crimes against women have also gone up. The war widows were poorly treated. Gehlot has not been able to implement his own government's or Central schemes properly. And that is why, he has announced some freebies to save his face.
However, as much as it is certain that the sun will rise from the East, the Congress will come down crashing in the next polls, and the BJP will form the government in Rajasthan with a historic mandate.
IANS: There are also talks of groupism among the BJP leaders. A lot is also being spoken about the not so affable relation between you and Vasundhara Raje. Is there any truth in them?
Shekhawat: It is natural to have competition in politics. And it is due to this competitiveness that an individual thinks of progressing. But if someone says 'PM Modi does not have leadership in BJP' and 'I am apart', it could be groupism.
However, things are not similar to that of the Congress in the BJP. Everyone in our party believes that the party symbol is Lotus, our leaders are PM Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and party's national President J.P. Nadda. Our objective is to defeat the Congress, bring the BJP back to power and people's remarks make no difference.
IANS: Do you think that the BJP will be having any advantage if it announces the CM nominee ahead of the polls?
Shekhawat: It really does not make any difference to a party that has the world's most popular and competent face (referring to PM Modi). We have a strong persona of PM Modi and the people of this nation have immense craze for him even today.
We will contest the Rajasthan elections on PM Modi's persona, and working out the process ahead is up to the BJP Parliamentary Board which will decide on the chief ministerial face.