In a free-wheeling conversation, former Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje tells Rajesh Asnani that to say that the BJP is milking the air strikes post-Pulwama for votes would be downright disrespectful to our martyrs and voters.
The two-time chief minister, in an exclusive interview, claims that the Congress government, over the last four months, has undone all the good work in the state on her watch. Excerpts;
How do you see the BJP’s prospects in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in Rajasthan given the party’s loss in the recent assembly elections? It has been seen over the last 20 years that the party which does well in assembly elections, fares well in Lok Sabha elections as well.
The last five years for the state and the country have been phenomenal to say the least. We’ve seen unprecedented growth and progress across sectors. While the results of the Assembly elections did not go in our favour, people continue to reap the rewards of our initiatives even today. For 60 years Congress stunted India’s growth but over the last 5 years, we’ve seen the Bhartiya Janta Party deliver in diverse fields. Be it infrastructure, socio-economic reforms or welfare programmes, I am confident our success will reflect in the election results.
You have been criticising the 100 days of the Congress government in your election rallies. What is your assessment of the Gehlot government’s performance and how much do you think it will matter in the coming polls?
I have always maintained that politics and service are two separate paradigms of governance. Once chosen to serve, it is imperative that a leader works for the good of people, putting aside political differences. Unfortunately, we have seen the Congress do the exact opposite over the last 4 months.
At the end of my last tenure, Rajasthan was a Digital leader, progressing towards becoming self-reliant in terms of water and was the only state with a healthcare scheme — Bhamashah Swasthya Bima Yojna — providing an insurance cover of up to Rs 3 lakh to poor families. Our Abhay Command Centres at all district headquarters led to a significant drop in the crime rate.
However, in less than 6 months, the state has seen a complete failure in areas where our targeted welfare initiatives had met with success. Be it crime, healthcare, welfare, security, this (Congress) government seems to be grappling with a policy paralysis. The voters would want to know what this government plans in terms of bolstering infrastructure, promoting investment, creating jobs.
The opposition claims that the BJP is using the air strikes after Pulwama terror attack to whip up nationalism and cover up its failure over the last 5 years. What’s your reaction to this charge?
Brig. K Kuldip Singh, in his book ‘Kurukshetra to Kargil’, writes, “The essence of nationalism is the nation’s security, which presupposes its unity. A nation is secure to the extent to which it is not in danger of having to sacrifice its core values”.
Therefore, for anyone to call the unfortunate Pulwama attack a clickbait for votes is downright disrespectful to our martyrs and voters. Previous Congress governments failed to take concrete retaliatory steps whenever a threat to national security arose. India is no stranger to terrorism or its aftermath. We’ve mourned our martyrs before, we’ve felt frustrated and angry before. But the only difference this time around is that we have a government that considers it a duty to avenge our martyred bravehearts and calls the nation to unite in our war against terror.
Congress claims that the loan waiver for farmers in Rajasthan will be a trump card for them. Do you think they could mine major electoral benefits out of it in Lok Sabha elections?
For the loan waiver to be a trump card, the Congress would first have to deliver on its promise. The loan waiver has been nothing but a hollow announcement. During elections, the Congress promised to waive off loans of all farmers across Rajasthan within 10 days of coming to power. They have now gone back on this promise, as many farmers are yet to receive any help.
As many as 18 farmers have committed suicide since December 2018. Urea shortage, water shortage, power cuts and hefty electricity bills are already a cause of great distress to farmers. Not sure about political benefits, but there definitely seems to be an agrarian crisis on the horizon for the Congress.
What impact do you think the Congress’ ‘NYAY’ scheme, giving Rs 72,000 to poor people annually, will have on voters? Many say it could be a game changer this election.
The Indira Gandhi led Congress in 1971 promised to eradicate poverty, raising the slogan ‘Garibi Hatao’. However, it remained a pipe dream. This ‘NYAY’ scheme of theirs would meet a similar fate.
Congress is known for making promises they cannot keep. So far, in Rajasthan, they have failed to deliver ₹R3,500 in unemployment benefit to every registered jobless youth and a complete loan waiver for farmers. They have betrayed the trust of voters, who feel cheated. Their discontent is bound to be reflected in the polls.
A major section of your party wanted you to contest the Lok Sabha elections. Why did you refuse? Are you not keen to leave Rajasthan?
I have always worked in close coordination with the Centre, even when I was heading Rajasthan. I have tirelessly worked to implement central schemes and programmes in the state and ensure that the benefits reach the last person. I am still at work. Now, the most important task before me is to deliver all 25 Lok Sabha seats in Rajasthan to the BJP.
Do you see a role in the central government should the BJP return to power in Delhi? Or will you continue to be the Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan till the next Assembly elections that are due in 2023?
Vasundhara Raje is the daughter of Rajasthan. This is my karm bhoomi. The people here are family to me. I have dedicated myself to serving the people of Rajasthan and will continue to do so till my very last breath. I have had the privilege of serving as a chief minister twice and cherish the strong bond I have with the people here. No matter what role or duty is entrusted to me by the party, in my heart, I shall always remain a true-blue Rajasthani.