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BJP has several leaders capable of becoming CM, but high command will take final call based on strategy for 2024 Lok Sabha polls: Dr Chandra

Dr Jagdeesh Chandra - CEO and Editor-in-Chief, Bharat24-Vision of New India and CMD and Editor-in-Chief, First India News and First India reveals how Gehlot was at his electoral best in the 2023 assembly polls compared to 2003 and 2013 polls, how Congress’ ploy to make new districts did not resonate with the masses, how Congress high command’s decision made people to believe there was more in store for Pilot post 2018 and how Gurjar community’s vote may have been a major factor in Congress loss in the thirteen districts of Eastern Rajasthan. Excerpts... (Part II)

  • How was Ashok Gehlot’s election management in this assembly election? How due you rate his performance in 2023 polls as compared to 2003 and 2013 polls?
    Dr Jagdeesh Chandra: Gehlot’s performance has been good. In fact, this election would be rated as Gehlot’s best management thus far with regards to resources and finances. It is for the first time that Congress has not seen any dearth in resources needed to contest polls. He arranged for finances in an impeccable manner. He is adept in the politics of ‘saam-daam-dand-bhed’. He gave a good fight in the election and loss or victory is just one aspect of the election and can happen to anyone. He got seventy seats for Congress which is a testament that he fought a good election. Even if compared to the elections in 2003 and 2013, he gave a good fight because in those times, Congress would get 30-35 seats but this time the seats have been considerably more.
  • Gehlot made nearly two dozen new districts and 3 divisions in a bid to win the election. Did it not bear any fruits for Congress?
    He did not get any benefit out of it. What generally happens is that when new districts are formed, they are handful in number. But they created twenty two districts and now demand is being raised for seven more, so this entire exercise has become a joke. The entire effort lost its seriousness. We cant say it was counter productive but Ashok Gehlot could not take any advantage or benefit out of it. It was a huge step with which people would have shown their support for Congress in the newly created districts, but it did not happen. At the end of the day, I think that the new state government would review this decision because the government does not have that kind of infrastructure and although notification for 19 districts has been issued, but it is a challenging work to ascertain where would the administration operate from in these new districts. Moreover, I did not see any major interest or excitement in the public also regarding these districts. At that time, the interested parties may have felt elated but later people realised that this development did not given them much excitement. So lets see how does this new government handle this issue.
  • Why did the Congress high command keep on giving false assurances to Pilot?
    See, after the governments were formed in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh in 2018, there was a perception among the people that just like on the lines of promises made to TS Singhdeo in Chhattisgarh that he and Bhupesh Baghel would rule for half of the tenure in the state, similarly, same accord was forged between Pilot and Gehlot. This was accepted by Rahul also for Chhattisgarh. However, in Rajasthan, this accord was not announced and it was only an impression or in public perception that something like this could happen. Although Priyanka Gandhi did say that the high command never promised to make Pilot CM for two and a half years, rather she said Congress would take care of Pilot and Pilot misinterpreted it. So it is in public impression that the high command did not stand true to its word or gave false assurances. It is an impression in Pilot camp that Gandhis did not behave well with Pilot.
  • What will be Gehlot and Pilot’s role now in the assembly?
    See the position of leader of opposition is the biggest post now. Ashok Gehlot does not come to the assembly that often but when late Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was CM, Gehlot used to spearhead Congress’ attack in the assembly and pick issues to surround the then government. He has forwarded Govind Singh Dotasra’s name for the position of LoP and had Rameshwar Dudi been there he would have been LoP. I think the focus is that a leader from the Jat community should become LoP. As far as Pilot is concerned, he is young, dynamic and intelligent and extremely close to the Gandhis. So it could happen that he stays in AICC. About Ashok Gehlot, I don’t think he will become LoP because once you have achieved such experience and seniority, positions like LoP do not entice you as a leader. Rather you would focus on meeting people and working for party. On the contrary, he could get an offer from Congress to become treasurer because he has become adept in handling financial matters. So he can go to AICC and can draw a parallel to party president albeit an informal one. He can also be party’s OBC face. My take is that whatever Gehlot wants in AICC, he will get it done through Sonia Gandhi.
  • Did Gurjar community not voting for Congress in Eastern Rajasthan resulted in Congress’ loss?
    Of course. Gurjars had never voted for Congress and it is believed that in 2018 assembly elections, Gurjars voted en-masse for Congress thinking that perhaps Sachin Pilot would become CM if Congress wins. They saw what happened with Pilot for five years so they might have felt disappointed. There were times when they thought that now Pilot would become CM, but that did no come to pass. Pilot also must not have given an explicit message that Gurjars should vote for Congress prior to 2018 polls. If you look at Eastern Rajasthan, there are thirteen districts which account for 83 assembly seats. In 2018, Congress won 49 of these seats and BJP won 25 only and this time around the difference between Congress and BJP is of 44 seats with BJP gaining the lost ground. So this is a fact that Gurjar voters did not vote for Congress this time around in Eastern Rajasthan.
  • If we look closely at Congress’ strategy, it always makes two power centres in the state. Is this also a reason for the grand-old party’s fall in recent times?
    Yes this is a major reason. It is not the absolute reason. Be it in Rajasthan or Chhattisgarh or Punjab or Haryana or Karnataka, this has always been Congress’ policy so that both the power centres keep standing with folded hands before the high command. Either it was this strategy of the high command or it so happened that two power centres came up on their own and the high command could not handle them strongly. Can anyone show such two groups under Narendra Modi, Amit Shah or JP Nadda? In BJP, there is one power centre and one line of working. For example now Chief Ministers are to be announced. So a message was shared that parliamentary board will meet and mull on the CM’s name and now a message will be sent regarding who the CM will be and that leader will become CM. This exact thing used to happen in Congress during Indira Gandhi’s time. But now the high command’s influence has been broken. So one can definitely say that these two groups result in internal feuds in the party due to which the party looses.
  • Who do you think are BJP’s Chief Ministerial faces?
    See, BJP has groomed Gajendra Singh Shekhawat for over four years as future CM or the leader of the party. We are all privy to Gajendra Singh’s working for the past four years and how he is representing the party in various states and forums. But now that the time for holding the reins have come, it remains the subject of BJP leadership’s discretion whether or not they go ahead with him. But public perception is that the number one candidate for the post of CM is Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. But if we talk about options beyond Shekhawat, than the most powerful option is Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla. Although for him it is said that the manner and finesse with which he has carried out working of the Lok Sabha, his rapport with Prime Minister along with his great equation with leaders of all parties may result in the party not sending him to Rajasthan. But if it so happens that the leadership decides that CM would be from the Baniya or Brahmin community, then Birla can be given a chance. Furthermore, the name of Om Mathur is also a strong name and he has to his credit the victory of Chhattisgarh. He is Narendra Modi’s friends from the days of Gujarat and it could be that the party may reward him for his services for so many years. Then there are certain reasons why Diya Kumari’s name is also being forwarded being a female leader and BJP recently having brought the Women Empowerment bill. If we talk about Dalit politics, the Arjun Ram Meghwal is the best face. If there is a need of Brahmin CM, then CP Joshi is a readymade CM. Then if you want you can bring Mahant Balaknath on the lines of Yogi Adityanath. So these are just options but like I said, in public perception, a leader who has been groomed for the role of CM is Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. But perhaps the biggest name as CM is of Vasundhara Raje, but her name is not discussed as much. But you never know what part luck plays in her case. But this is BJP high command and like it happened in Gujarat where the legislator was seated on the last row on the stage and when the party observers received message about the candidate, they immediately started searching for him and then Bhupendra Patel was asked to come forward. He was reluctant of coming to front of the line but when the observers insisted, he came in front and to his surprise, it was his name that the observers announced as CM. So something like this can happen in Rajasthan as well.

During the show #JConRajasthanResult trended top All-India on Twitter

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