Interview with Congress leader Ashok Gehlot.in Jaipur
THE Congress leadership in Rajasthan is rather optimistic that the party is going to form the next government in the State. Senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has been one of the leading faces in the election campaign. He spoke to Frontline on a range of issues. Excerpts:
What has changed in the recent past to make you confident that the Congress will form the next government?
There is a lot of confidence among the workers, and the situation now is totally different from what it was five years ago. The misrule of the outgoing BJP government has contributed significantly to this. Despite the fact that we were unable to form the government last time, our vote share was not bad at all. It remains a mystery to us why we lost. Electronic voting machines were used for the first time. Perhaps people did not comprehend the mechanism completely. Even former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had wondered then as to how the BJP managed to do so well.
There was no palpable wave against the Congress. No one expected the party to do so badly.
Government employees were unhappy with some of our decisions. So were some legislators. We thought that we would deal with the drought situation first and then tackle other issues. The government employees are no longer annoyed with us. There were some misunderstandings, and these have been cleared now. They are on our side. In the last elections, the voters who were confident that it was going to be a Congress-led government anyway, ended up voting against some of their local representatives. That affected the balance also.
Pollsters have predicted a hung Assembly with independents doing rather well.
No, the Congress is going to get a clear majority. The kind of criticism that the BJP has faced over corruption, from even senior members of the party, has been noticed by everyone. They have gone on record to state that transparency was missing. This was the first time that a government described agitating farmers as anti-socials. The kind of police action witnessed in the past five years was unprecedented in the history of the State. No segment of society is happy with the BJP, be it farmers or government employees.
Some of the allegations of favouritism levelled by senior Congress leaders such as Margaret Alva and Yogendra Makwana had some references to Rajasthan.
There was no basis to their allegations. It was an expression of their frustration. The charges were vague. I did not expect this of Margaret Alva, who is a senior leader. Makwana has changed sides and loyalties very often.
Is the Congress hopeful of getting the support of Gujjars? Isnt it true that the party hardly played an active role as the leading Opposition party? For instance, people know that the farmers agitation in
First, the Gujjars are totally against the BJP. The Chief Minister never admitted that it was a mistake. Her provocative statements were totally uncalled for. Secondly, the farmers agitation was hijacked by the Left. It was the Congress that started the agitation.