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Now, a former Congress CM thinks EVMs are defective!

January 24, 2014 12:23 IST

Now, a former Congress CM thinks EVMs are defective!

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Anita Katyal

'I know people will say I am raising this issue because I have lost. There have been a lot of complaints about the electronic voting machines. There is a view that the machines were defective.'

'When advanced countries like Japan and the US have discarded the use of these machines and gone back to using ballot papers, the Election Commission should take a fresh look at this,' former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot tells Anita Katyal.

A humble and low-profile leader, former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot has been known for his proximity to the Nehru family.

Although it stood him in good stead in the past, his position in the Congress has been sharply downgraded after he led the party to a crushing defeat in the recent assembly election.

Not only was he overlooked for the presidency of the party's state unit, he was also not appointed leader of the Congress Legislature Party. Both these posts have gone to young leaders -- Sachin Pilot and Rameshwar Dudi -- who were picked by Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi.

Gehlot may be a lonely man today, but it is too early to write him off. He has the ability to emerge from adverse situations. For the moment though, he is still in shock about his government's humiliating loss.

In a conversation with Rediff.com in Jaipur, Gehlot admitted he has not been able to fathom the reasons for the election debacle.

It's over a month since the assembly election results were declared. Have you been able to analyse the reasons for the crushing defeat

Even today, I am baffled... I am unable to understand what happened.

Our defeat was really surprising, not just for me, but for the entire party. Even my critics had told us before the election that we were winning.

I meet so many people who keep telling me about how well my government performed and the immense work we did for the development of the state.

They tell me -- your government worked so well, we don't know why you lost.

What was even more shocking was the massive margin of defeat.

Look at all the programmes we launched for the poor -- free medicines, free medical check-up, the pensions scheme, subsidised food grains.

Our government was the first to launch the Food Security Bill. All these schemes were extremely popular.

We also performed well in other sectors. We presented a surplus budget, power generation had gone up, and the road sector had improved. We also got an oil refinery.

All our meetings were so well attended. People would tell us the chief minister has already given us so much, we don't know what more to ask for.

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Image: Former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot.


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Anita Katyal

Rahul Gandhi and other party leaders recently said the Congress was poor at marketing its achievements. Do you agree?

I admit there is some merit in that. Our government's performance was so good. Maybe we lacked the machinery to take this message to the people.

We were weak in propagating our work... I always believed that our work should speak for itself.

When I heard reports about the heavy polling, I thought people had come out to vote in such large numbers because they appreciated all the good work done by my government.

It was also said that all these welfare schemes were implemented just before the election, the delivery was poor and people did not appreciate it.

That's not true. This impression was created by the BJP's (Bharatiya Janata Party) false propaganda to discredit the Congress government.

Maybe one or two schemes were introduced close to the elections, but the free medicines scheme was implemented two years ago.

It is possible that there were some shortcomings in the implementation.

There is another issue. I know people will turn around and say that I am raising this issue because I have lost.

There have been a lot of complaints about the electronic voting machines. There is a view that the machines were defective.

All I am saying is that when advanced countries like Japan and the US have discarded the use of these machines and gone back to using ballot papers, the Election Commission should take a fresh look at this.

I also believe that the distribution of voting slips by government officials worked against us. Earlier, party workers would personally visit people's homes and give them the slips. This helped establish a personal rapport with the voters.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Anita Katyal

Don't you think that issues like price rise and corruption along with the wrong selection of candidates and internal sabotage contributed to your party's defeat.

It is true, price rise was an issue. As for all the corruption charges, I don't think the Congress was to blame or was involved in any way.

Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi have an impeccable image. These false allegations were spread by our political opponents.

What about internal sabotage? It was said C P Joshi's appointment as the campaign committee chief undermined your position. It was believed he would be the next chief minister if the Congress came back to power.

I would not like to say anything in this regard. It will not be right for me to comment on him or his role.

I was consulted by the party high command before Joshi was appointed campaign committee chief. All I can say is that we all worked together.

All decisions regarding the selection of candidates and the campaign were taken collectively. I don't think it is correct to blame anybody.

Isn't it true that your government alienated the powerful Jat community which turned against you.

If the Jats were angry with us, why did we lose in the non-Jat areas? I don't believe caste was a factor in these elections.

Do you think this was Vasundhara Raje and Narendra Modi's victory.

It was the victory of false propaganda. You know when a lie is repeated several times, people begin to believe it.

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Image: Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje at an election rally.


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Anita Katyal

Was Narendra Modi a factor in the election?

There is no doubt that Modi is a polarising figure. As a prime ministerial candidate, he uses objectionable language and has the habit of hitting below the belt.

He wants to become prime minister at any cost, by any means.

It is not in the country's interest to have such a polarising figure as prime minister.

Modi plays the Hindutva card in an indirect way.

He whipped up passions with his Hindutva agenda and succeeded in polarising the electorate.

We have seen defeats before, but not by such huge margins.

This is unusual in an assembly election.

What is the roadmap ahead? How do you see the Congress's prospects in Rajasthan in the coming Lok Sabha election? Will the young state leadership make a difference?

Rahul Gandhi's speech at the All India Congress Committee meeting gave us the message to motivate voters.

Party workers were truly motivated and inspired by his speech. There is no doubt he is going ahead with full confidence.

We need to take this process forward and we will have to work together to do so.

The road ahead is undoubtedly tough, but we still have three months.

Remember, in 2003, we lost the assembly elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, but the Congress surprised everybody by winning the Lok Sabha elections in 2004.

Even today, we have the party infrastructure and organisation to recover. All is not lost.

Narendra Modi should remember that elections cannot be won merely by making speeches.

The people of this country are basically secular by nature and secularism will prevail.

We should not be surprised by the election results.

In Rajasthan, we have two young leaders who have taken over as Pradesh Congress Committee chief and Congress Legislature Party leader -- Sachin Pilot and Rameshwar Dudi.

With Rahul Gandhi at the helm, it is only natural that young leaders should be encouraged and promoted.

It is good for the country that young people are being given a chance.

Rajiv Gandhi did the same. I was among the young leaders he promoted. I got a lot of opportunities.

I was 33 when I was first appointed PCC president.

Now it is up to the young leaders to carry on the work, to make a success of it.


Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at a rally in Ajmer
Photographs: Photograph courtesy: Vasundhara Raje's Facebook page

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