'Raje's flaw is she doesn't communicate with people'

Congress leader and former chief minister Ashok Gehlot interacts during an election campaign in his home constituency of Sardarpura in Jodhpur on November 20. PTI

With the Congress eyeing a return to power both in Rajasthan and at the Centre, AICC general secretary and former chief minister Ashok Gehlot spoke to DH's Tabeenah Anjum at his Jaipur residence on the Congress strategy for the upcoming Assembly polls.

What are the focus areas for the Congress?

In our campaigns, we are promising good governance, development, removing unemployment, addressing farmer issues, loan waivers, improving education and health facilities across the state. Nothing substantial has happened during BJP's tenure. They can't address public-centric issue — they can hand over public assets to private hands.

But CM Raje and BJP chief Amit Shah claim they have achieved their targets.

No government before Raje's has ever patronised any mafia. But under the Vasundhara Raje government, land, liquor and sand mafia flourished with the help of officials and I believe the money (from the corrpution) has reached the top ranks. The BJP government, in the last five years, has only worked to weaken schemes launched by the former Congress government and has stalled various important projects in the state.

During the Congress government rule, there were 25 lakh people engaged in MGNREGA works, but now the number has reduced to 2.5 lakh. Raje even weakened the popular free medicine scheme and launched a complicated 'Bhamasha' scheme which hasn't made any difference to the poor. 

The Congress took a lot of time to declare the first list of candidates. Was this due to infighting?

Not at all. Such things take time. We were trying to accomodate all deserving people and we have had a mix of fresh and experienced candidates in the list.

But Congress nominated a few last-minute entrants despite the fact that Rahul Gandhi claimed that no parachute candidates will be given a ticket?

All seats have been distributed on the basis of winnability. Congress is focusing on the merits of the candidates and his/her caste is considered later. And yes, a marginal seats have been given to last-minute entrants but again after looking at their winnability and credibility.

Why is it that Congress leaders always make controversial statement at the time of elections, whether it is Mani Shankar Iyer, Raj Babbar and now C P Joshi?

Its the BJP that distorts the statements. Their leaders don't leave a single a chance to say things about Soniya Gandhiji and Indira Gandhiji.

You have been touring across the state. What feedback are you receiving?

People are fed up with BJP and Vasundhara Raje. Their central and state schemes have failed to appease the people of Rajasthan. Vasundharaji used to claim that BJP will get 180 seats. I am sure she has already received an answer after her Gaurav Yatra — which I call 'Vidaai Yatra' — received a series of protests. People of Rajasthan want Congress to return to power because they have understood that BJP can do nothing good for the state.

The one flaw that according to you created an anti-Raje sentiment in the state?

Lack of communication with the people of Rajasthan. She doesn't come out of her palaces. She's hardly accessible and is in Delhi or Dholpur most of the time. Even the CMO works without her and the bureaucrats work as the de facto CM in her absence.

UP CM Yogi Adityanath will do 11 rallies in Rajasthan. Can he make things favourable for the BJP?

He should concentrate on UP. People here know about him, he cannot fool them.

Congress has maintained a suspense over its CM face. Who will be CM if the Congress comes to power — you or Sachin Pilot?

I am ready for whatever role Congress president Rahul Gandhi gives me. I am more than satisfied with my political innings and the question before me now is how to bring the party to power in Rajasthan first and later in the country under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.The high command's decision will be acceptable by all.

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