JAIPUR: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is facing one of its biggest challenges in Rajasthan where it won 163 of the 200 seats in the last Assembly elections. It also won all 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the 2014 Parliamentary elections. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje is looking to retain power after her party was routed in the by-elections in February this year. Popularly known as Maharani Sahiba, Raje has fought several political battles both outside and inside her party. Once again, she is leading the BJP in the state. In a conversation with Rajesh Asnani, Raje says she is confident that her work will help her win. Edited Excerpts:
You've been campaigning a lot. Why do you think people should vote for you again?
This government has cared for the people's needs. We have worked to improve their way of life and provide them with opportunities that didn't exist earlier. People will vote for development, infrastructure and continuity in the growth the government has provided.
What specific areas of the state have seen a marked improvement under your term as chief minister?
From infrastructure to a digital presence; from skill development to financial inclusion and the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT); from welfare of the girl child to improving learning outcomes; Rajasthan is today among the leading states of India. An important paradigm of our governance was to uplift and empower the weaker sections of society with a specific focus on women, girl children and education.
Unemployment seems to be a major concern for your party's prospects. You promised to give 15 lakh jobs but the Congress says the promise has not been fulfilled. Comments.
We have kept and bettered our promises. You really do not expect the Opposition to see things in your way. The Congress really needs to look at a mirror and try to analyse how they have wronged people for 50 years. Thanks to the Congress, Rajasthan was mired in underdevelopment and obscurity. It took the BJP and its forward-looking policies, the hard work of the Karyakartas (workers) and enthusiasm from the people to bring about a change. In five years, we introduced schemes that helped create opportunities for employment and self-employment, in the private and public sectors... I want to know what the Opposition introduced in terms of schemes that ensured support for youngsters over the past 50 years.
Farmer suicides were a big issue in the Hadoti region. The Congress says 150 farmers committed suicide for the first time in Rajasthan. Farmers are in distress — do you think it's a big problem?
To talk is easy; the Congress knows that. Our government has always viewed the farmer as an 'Annadata (food provider)' and we have and will continue to work for the welfare of farmers and all-round development in the farming sector. We waived loans worth Rs 8,000 crore, benefiting nearly 30 lakh farmers. The Congress does not have a similar example anywhere, ever.
Many people feel that in last five years there was too much polarisation in politics by the BJP. We have seen cow vigilantes lynching in the state but the police has not been active. Do you agree that polarisation has tarnished the image and communal harmony of the state?
Every Rajasthani is proud to be living harmoniously in a very peaceful state. Communal harmony is important for Rajasthan and I am happy to say that the communal fabric has strengthened under our rule. We shall continue to make all efforts to prevent anyone from disrupting harmony, law and order in Rajasthan. In our state, the rule of the law is supreme.
Manvendra Singh, son of former BJP leader Jaswant Singh, left the BJP, joined the Congress and has been fielded against you. Do you see him as a challenge? Many say Rajputs are angry with you and that may cost the BJP. What's your take?
We all know the result of the election in Jhalarapatan. It is rather naive to talk about Rajputs or any other caste. Every person is a Rajasthani first ... It is a matter of pride that every community contributes handsomely to the future of the state.
What's your vision to take Rajasthan ahead? What are the areas you will specially focus on...
The road ahead is long. There is so much more that needs to be done in terms of economic and social infrastructure, skilling and livelihoods, healthcare and education. Digital and manufacturing shall certainly be on the agenda. We shall work to further consolidate traditional strengths like tourism, mining and bio-mass production and at the same time, ensure an environment that nurtures and sustains talent and respects skill.