'Cong did not just work for 6 months but delivered through 60 months'
“Anti-incumbency has no room in our system. People's aspirations were met in spite of the challenges and the government eventually delivered,” says Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in an exclusive interview to Rediff.com
On the last day of campaigning, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, through a media advertisement issued through Pradesh Congress, appealed to the electors to vote for the Congress.
The advertisement lists the achievements of his government, which is consistent with what he has been saying for the past eight months.
Gehlot had also set out on the yatra when his rival (Bharatiya Janata Party’s) Vasundhara Raje took out one. During the yatra, Gehlot told the people how his government was better than the BJP government and what his government had done for the people of the state.
The media in Rajasthan thrived as the government in the past five years has spent, allegedly, more than Rs 650 crores in advertising through various methods and media. But even after the media blitzkrieg through these five years, Gehlot felt the need to present in a capsule form the achievements of his government.
“Gehlot's advertisements are timely reminders to the people before the poll about what his government did,” says Sooraj Khatri, secretary of the Pradesh Congress.
Gehlot is a bundle of energy and for the past eight months has been touring the state braving the harsh desert sun and storm. He was lucky that the state had good rains.
Rediff.com spoke to Gehlot on various issues and the interview was conducted at several places during his whirlwind tour during the campaign trail.
Anti-incumbency is a factor that any government in power faces when it’s poll time. The anti-incumbency factor however did not affect Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Chhattisgarh where successive BJP and Congress governments came to power. What did you do to avoid the anti-incumbency factor?
Thinking about the anti-incumbency factor is kind of a defeatist attitude. I do not know how successive BJP governments in both MP and Chhattisgarh came to power but I can tell you about Delhi where the Congress government under Sheila Dikshit gave the urban citizens what they wanted.
The people's aspirations were met in spite of the challenges and the government eventually delivered. The people in return reposed its trust in the government. My government believed in transparency and in good governance. We did not work for just six months but delivered during the 60 months. We gave people no time to think negative about the government. So, this so-called anti-incumbency factor found no room in our system.
You have been very vocal about Vasundhara Raje and have been attacking her for her long absence from the state.
Isn’t it a fact that after losing the 2008 elections she disappeared and was never found in the state? Even her party leaders had no clue about her whereabouts. She was located in London and holidaying in Europe. She suddenly appeared on the scene and readied herself to grab power in the election year. People notice all this and it will reflect in the results. She could not do any justice as an opposition leader and was not seen even during the Vidhan Sabha session.
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Image: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot
Photographs: Rohit Jain
'Electors should judge the performance of the government in totality'
But even she accused you of disappearing from the state after losing in 2003 and not being seen in the Vidhan Sabha.
I never went missing (laughs). I was very much is India and in my state. After the 2003 election I was made the general secretary of the All India Congress Committee. But I came to Rajasthan every week and met people. As far as not attending the Vidhan Sabha is concerned, my attendance there is higher than Vasundharaji’s.
You are going to polls on the development agenda. But in caste based politics what importance does development have
Development is an ongoing process and the people want sustained development. Rajasthan, because of its own typical geography, has multiple problems. We tried to do our bit to see that people sitting in the farthest part of the state are beneficiaries.
Even in 2003 we were in a position to form the government. But local issues overtook larger issues and we could not form the government. We have learnt from experience.
The Congress wants to thrive on the numerous social security schemes it has launched. Can you tell us what was the most effective scheme?
Rather than single out a scheme, the electors should judge the performance of the government in totality. We did a good job with power, education, health, roads and infrastructure and various pension schemes. The pension money reached the beneficiaries’ account. All these things the BJP missed out during their rule. The refinery was the biggest gift to the people. The refinery was pending with the BJP government. Why could they not get the refinery? We got it because we showed our commitment.
You have said that the BJP by dubbing the free medicine scheme as free poison scheme insulted people and hurt their pride.
Of course. A scheme that benefits the poor and helps an ailing person is being described as poison. It’s unethical to misguide people when they have already commended the government for its honest effort. The misleading statements of the BJP would be answered by the people.
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Image: Village women labourers work at the construction site of a road at Merta district, Rajasthan.
Photographs: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters
'Modi has done more disservice for his party through his speeches'
What do you think of the Dr Kirodi Lal Meena factor whose Rashtriya Janta Party is going to win a good number of seats which might result in a hung Assembly.
No party can sustain itself on casteist lines. We remain unaffected by Dr Kirodi Lal Meena's party and we are inching towards a majority. The issue of a hung Assembly will not arise.
Do you think that there is a Modi (BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi) wave and the Congress would be swept away by Modi?
Modi's credentials as a communal person are known all over the country. The people understand this and know what Modi speaks. He has not been able to do any turnaround for the BJP in Rajasthan because people of the state are sensible and would not budge on such provocative or emotional appeals. Modi did more disservice for his party and put the Congress in an advantage through his speeches.
Will the results of the Assembly elections reflect in the Lok Sabha election?
Everything is related and currently I am focusing on the Assembly poll. We will cross the bridge in May easily next year.