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November 21, 1998


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The Rediff Interview/Narpat Singh Rajvi

'I asked voters at my meetings whether they consider me to be an outsider. And thousands of people said no'

Eight months ago, the mood in the Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters in New Delhi was jubilant. The BJP had emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha and was close to a majority in conjunction with its allies.

But senior party leaders and captains of industry were perturbed: the BJP's finance minister-in-waiting, Jaswant Singh, had lost by a margin of nearly 25,000 votes in what was believed to be his pocket borough, Chittorgarh.

The historic capital of Rana Pratap is again witnessing a keen contest, this time for the assembly seat, between Narpat Singh Rajvi, son-in law of Rajasthan Chief Minister Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, and local Congressman Surendra Singh Jadavat.

Jadavat is banking on the anti-BJP wave in Rajasthan and the "outsider" factor: Rajvi hails from Bikaner.

But Rajvi is confident of sailing through. In an interview with Syed Firdaus Ashraf, he explained why.

You are the only son-in-law of Chief Minister Shekhawat. Does that make you different from the other BJP MLAs?

There is no difference. I am also a human being like them. It never crosses my mind that I am the chief minister's only son-in-law.

Can you tell us something of your past. How did you enter politics?

I was very active in college politics in Bikaner, which happens to be my hometown. Since those days I never used to like the Congress and its policies. I decided then that one day I would join some party against the Congress. But I never knew my father-in-law would be the chief minister of Rajasthan.

After completing my graduation, I became an accounts officer in the Rajasthan government. In 1990, I quit the post and joined the BJP formally.

How different was your experience as an MLA?

It's a big difference. In service you have a 10-to-5 job. But in politics you always have to be on your toes. In service you are relaxed as you do not have anything to do after office hours. But in politics you have to serve the people 24 hours.

Can you tell us something about your marriage? How did it happen?

It was a simple and traditional marriage, which happened in 1982. My father-in-law met my parents. They saw my horoscope, which matched that of my wife. You won't believe it, I was not even aware of these things happening. In fact, when my father told me my marriage had been arranged, I was surprised. Believe me, at that time I had not even heard the name of my wife or my father-in-law. (Smiles.)

So you are a traditional person.

Yes, very much. In fact all my brothers are very traditional. They are all in good posts. But all of them married the same way I did.

Did Shekhawat know your father?

Yes, my father was a district judge and they knew each other through common friends.

Jaswant Singh lost the Chittorgarh parliamentary constituency just eight months ago. And you are contesting the Chittor city seat. Don't you think when a leader like Jaswant Singh lost, it will be very difficult for you?

Not at all. There were other issues responsible for Jaswant Singhji's defeat. He was not in touch with the rural people of Chittor. Also, the Congressman who won [Uday Lal Anjan] used caste politics and money power to defeat him.

But isn't it true that the 'outsider' factor was one of the reasons for Jaswant Singh's defeat?

No, I told you, money and caste politics were the reasons.

Your opponents say Jaswant Singh lost by 6,000 votes in the Chittor assembly segment. Doesn't that worry you?

No, this is not true. Let me make one thing clear: when votes are counted, they are counted only at one centre. Ballot boxes from different polling booths are brought to that place and mixed. Only then does counting take place. So how can anybody say Jaswant Singh bagged 6,000 votes less than his opponent in Chittor city?

The opium farmers who constitute a major vote bank in your constituency are unhappy that your party has given new licences to many new people. There is a lot of resentment against you and your party...

No, there is no resentment. Again my opponent is using caste politics to highlight this issue.

Last year the government had given 70,000 new licences to opium farmers. This time they decided to increase the number to 140,000. When people heard this, many flocked for new licences. But later on the government felt it was not possible to issue so many licences, so they cut down the figure. So some people were upset. But you cannot call it resentment.

But the farmers say there was no need for the BJP government to give new licences as there is no demand for opium in the international market.

I don't know about the international demand for opium. So I cannot comment on this question.

What are the issues you are highlighting in the election?

Mainly development. In the last five years in Chittorgarh, I have constructed a new hospital building. One dharamshala (free rest house) and many new roads have been built. These are just some of the small things I have done for Chittor. There are many others which I don't want to boast about.

The Congress is highlighting the fact that you are from Bikaner and have no right to contest the election from here.

I asked voters at my meetings whether they consider me to be an outsider. And thousands of people said no. The people of Chittor know me very well. For the last five years, I have been in constant touch with them and they know my achievements. So there is no question of me being called an outsider.

Aren't you being overconfident of your victory when a man like Jaswant Singh lost?

No, I am not overconfident. I am confident that I will win the election because I have been in touch with my voters. God willing, I will win by more than 15,000 votes, which was my winning margin in 1993.

Finally, as Shekhawat's only son-in-law, don't you think you should have been made a minister?

No, being a minister was not important for me. You must be aware that I played an important role in saving my father-in-law's ministry when it was about to be toppled two years ago. I worked day and night to save the government. Had I thrown my weight around, I could have easily got any ministerial post. But I am not here for posts. I am a public servant.

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Assembly Elections '98

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