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Gehlot will be a major challenge for the saffron party in 2023!
- How did you decide to enter politics?
I was a studious youth and had no interest in joining politics in the initial stage. When I did graduation from Allahabad university, I did not even know how many parties were there in the country as I has no interest in politics. Then I came to Delhi to pursue CA and travelled across the country for audit etc. In 1995-96, I entered politics and before that I had been active in RSS. In BJP, I started directly in the Bharatiya Janta Yuva Morcha when Shivraj Chouhan was its president, and I became national treasurer. Chouhan had once asked me to take over national responsibility and I agreed after thinking over the proposal. I remained MP in-charge of the BJYM.
- Did you never contest assembly or parliamentary polls?
In 2014, I was completely prepared to contest from Mathura but I was co-in-charge of Odisha and the party wanted me to focus there. I did not think twice and went to Odisha and have been managing elections in other states also. I have got representation in the Rajya Sabha twice.
- Despite being on responsible position, you keep smiling. Do you never face stress?
Never. There is so much work, but there is no stress. Whenever there is a responsibility or stress, I write it down in the diary. Sometimes it is tough to sleep during night but I jot down tasks at hand in the diary and sleep peacefully. After ticket was denied to me in 2014 from Mathura, I once asked Amit Shah, when he was about to become national president, that I worked so hard but why was I not given chance to contest poll. Shah then told me not to worry and that he would return my hard work with interest. Later, he made me national general secretary. His decision making is fast and and he has immense clarity.
- How do you rate Amit Shah as party president and decisive Home minister?
I consider myself fortunate to have worked with him closely from 2015-19 as general secretary headquarter. He is very hard working and pays several visits even to the district level office bearers. As the party president, he has visited every state and stayed the night there twice or thrice. Under his leadership, the BJP became the largest party of the World.
- Is the pace same during JP Nadda’s tenure?
The pace is good. Nadda ji is carrying forward the legacy and also doing innovations. During Covid, Seva-Hi-Sangathan work under guidance of PM Modi by Nadda ji brought wonderous results in service of humans and even animals.
- When did you meet Amit Shah and Narendra Modi for the first time?
I met Shah in 2013 for the first time. I met Modi ji way back in 2002-03 when he was national general secretary (organization). Before becoming CM, he once addressed a meeting of BJYM and I have notes of what he said that time. His vision was great that time also.
- JP Nadda is frequently visiting Rajasthan. Is Rajasthan seeming a big challenge to the BJP?
For us, every state is a challenge. There is no major challenge in Rajasthan, but we have to raise several issues arising out of anger in the minds of the public due to unfulfilled promises.
- Are you going to form the government in Rajasthan?
101%, there is no doubt in it. We will form the government with three-fourth majority and there is no doubt in that.
- What is reason behind this confidence?
There is problem of everything in Rajasthan be it water, electricity, law and order, and even corruption. Gehlot government is engaged in saving the chair. The government, which is surrounded by crisis, has put the public in crisis,therefore, the ouster of such government is sure.
- But how will your party win Rajasthan with a divided house?
I look at it from another perspective. Congress party is a leaderless party. Rahul Gandhi cannot give direction, guidance, and inspiration to any state unit as he is himself confused on every issue. But this election is in Rajasthan and not of Rahul Gandhi? Now, consider Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot are fighting then who will handle them. There has to be guidance or inspiration or discipline of a national leader over the state leadership.
- Why is there so much ambiguity about leadership? Why cannot parties give clarity about the leadership so that workers are not confused?
I have repeated it hundred times that our parliamentary board will take right decision at the right time and it has happened in other states also. In 2017, no CM faces were declared in UP and Uttarakhand and those whose photos were carried on banners, none of them were made the CM. However, during this election the CM face was declared. The highest decision making body of the party will decide about it.
- So do you feel that this uncertainty and divided house will not cause loss to the party?
Not at all. A large number of party workers work dedicatedly and they do not have courage to ask such question. They work for a mission, for an ideology.
- Do you think that in 2023, the party workers of different factions will work together? Or at the last moment Modi, Shah, and you will sweep the elections?
We work on the concept of samuhikta (togetherness) and there is no manbhed (mental differences) among us. There may be differences and that should be there. Since you are a knowledgeable person, you tell us whose face will click and we will convey the feedback to the party high command.
JC: As far as CM face is concerned, we have information that the party has decided that in coming elections in MP, Chhatisgarh and Rajasthan, the party will contest with a local face. The overall face of Narendra Modi and strategy of Amit Shah are already there. At the local level, during the 3.5 years period the party had got feedback and surveys were also conducted. It has been considered that the party could not create alternative to faces of Raman Singh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje in these states so accept the reality and the CM face may be declared in October end or November beginning. This is information. As far as analysis is concerned, Madam is far ahead in terms of being crowd puller in Rajasthan. There is also information that state BJP President Satish Poonia and Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria will also change and there will be a new team. As you gave me privilege to tell the CM face, I think there are two options. First, if the election is to be contested on the lines of UP and the face of Narendra Bhai and strategy of Amit Shah with a little projection of Yogi, then no face is required and all faces become irrelevant whether it is Madam, Gajendra Singh, Satish Poonia or Om Birla. But if you want to win 2024, which you have seemingly already won, and to avoid the minor issues at the state level, then you may go ahead with your survey. The choice is yours whether to want to win through struggle from Delhi or through the local leadership. But I will say that the amount of challenge that the BJP faces from internal factionalism, the similar amount of challenge is from Ashok Gehlot is still there.
Arun: Yes, your analysis is correct. When the central leadership will sit, they will consider all aspects as they have whole feedback. But making a guess is very tough at present time and the parliamentary board will have the final say. You have very good judgement about Rajasthan and I congratulate you for that.
JC: I also wish to give a compliment to you and through you to Narendra Bhai and Amit Bhai that youth feedback system is wonderful. You never compromise with information and facts. You go by your survey and adjust as per the situation. In such situation, if you go by the CM face in the states, it may be a welcome decision. Choosing the CM face is your prerogative.
JC: Aditi, how big a threat Ashok Gehlot is for the BJP?
Aditi: In UP, when we went to the grass-root, the people mentioned about the beneficial schemes. As Narendra Modi’s schemes are there, in Rajasthan the Ashok Gehlot government has several schemes benefiting the people. Two big are OPS and Free treatment scheme. How will you face these schemes and their popularity?
Arun: PM’s image is of messiah for poor, farmers and downtrodden. The people are benefiting from the Central schemes. The biggest challenge there is of law and order. 16 rape cases are happening daily in Rajasthan. Criminalisation is also strong in Rajasthan and Ashok Gehlot cannot provide answer for it. Sand mafia, mining mafia, and even corruption in transfers is prevalent. Even teachers mentioned this in front of the CM. His MLAs consider themselves as not less than the CM and the CM cannot control them. There is no governance.
Aditi: Does Ashok Gehlot have any threat from Sachin Pilot or from some other party?
Arun: He (Gehlot) has accepted that his government will not repeat. I think he is frightened more from Hindutva and Hindus. After Rahul gave a strange definition of Hindu and Hindutva in Rajasthan, several communal incidents are happening there.
JC: Ashok Gehlot has been repeating that BJP is instigating people and is dividing the country on the name of religion, on the name of Hindu-Muslim. But my analysis is that just like Amit Shah, who is strategy master in Delhi and works hard and considers each and every vote as important, Similarly, if there is anyone in Congress who can make any strategy of that same level, it is Ashok Gehlot. He has prepared a detailed strategy. The level of threat that you face from internal faction, which may be solved by October-November; an almost same level of threat is posed by Ashok Gehlot. It is also true that Ashok Gehlot has less of a threat from BJP and more from his own MLAs due to his political compulsion and there are several complaints against the MLAs in the field. Ashok Gehlot is worried about this and he faces same threat from this fact as much as from the BJP.
Arun: We consider every election as a tough fight and will consider Ashok Gehlot also a tough competition. It is true that when news appear about CM face, the workers feel the pinch but we will handle it.
Aditi: Since we are talking of Ashok Gehlot, what is Vasundhara Raje for the BJP?
Arun: Vasundhara ji, our senior and popular leader, is national vice president and has been CM twice. We are proud that the works done during her tenure were very good.
Aditi: But what is Vasundhara Raje for Rajasthan?
Arun: She has been CM twice and is member of the core committee. She will address all big rallies. Among other leaders, she will play vital role in handling Rajasthan.
Aditi: There are separate factions of Raje and Satish Poonia. Have you or anyone else tried that Raje and Poonia sit on same table and sort out the issues?
Arun: Several times they have sat together. There is no problem in this. I will not say anything on the lines you are trying to make me utter.
JC: If Vasundhara is not CM face for any reason, then Om Birla is a silent runner, a dark horse. He denies being in the race but he is like a parallel line running in Rajasthan, which has not come to the fore yet. Practically, I have considered that Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is a CM designate for the last two years. Since you are confident of forming the government, what is role of Kirodi factor and Hanuman Beniwal factor?
Arun: Dr Kirodi Lal Meena is doing work with the party and remains active in agitations. He is a mass leader. I have never felt uneasy with Dr Kirodi’s actions but have always felt happy. Hanuman Beniwal is not in our party so no comments.
Aditi: Will you be seeking Beniwal's support for one Rajya Sabha seat where situation is tricky?
Arun: We will work that out together. If someone extends support, there is no problem.
JC: Is there any treat from AAP in Rajasthan?
Arun: The party which has no ideology, no work culture, no reliability and no acceptance. One has to deliver one promises. Kejriwal said he would not stay in govt house, will not use govt vehicles and security, not take govt salary but he is using everything. He has even announced to not enter politics but has done so.
JC: But what happened in Punjab?
Arun: They already had 20 seats and as BJP’s organisation is not strong there, so people wanted to get rid of Congress and by default AAP won there. They do not have a model of governance.
JC: What about Gujarat and Himachal?
Arun: It will be good. We will form government in both the states. The trend of repeating BJP governments has now started.
Aditi: Some anti-Raje individuals have rejoined the BJP in Rajasthan. Is it for strengthening the cadre or because a faction is dominating the other one?
Arun: You named a few leaders but left the others. It is decided at the party level. 10 more are in line to join soon.
JC: Is it operation Lotus?
Arun: There is a long list as a number of people want to join, from Congress also. We never believe in toppling any government. But many people want to join the party and they will come.
JC: In Karnataka, govt was not toppled but BJP took over the reins. But the CM was changed, what was behind it? How did you manage the miracle of handling Yediyurappa?
Arun: He left of his own as his age was not on his side. But Yediyurappa is still working for the party. It is miracle of the PM whom Yediyurappa had met.
JC: In the states, the votes are being cast on the name of Narendra Modi and the local leadership is getting irrelevant. How do you perceive it?
Arun: Poor are getting ration, free vaccine, farmers welfare and several other schemes, then people have understood that they need double engine government. Not that Gehlot is always criticising Modi for vaccine, oxygen, electricity etc. People have understood that if similar party rules the state and the Centre, then there will be smooth work.
JC: Do you think that you have already won 2024 and now fight is for 2029?
Arun: The public has won. There is huge support of the public for PM Modi.
JC: Will the opposition ever be united against PM Modi?
They keep trying to come together but have their own differences. When every leader in the Opposition thinks of becoming the PM, then how will an alliance become a possibility. They will pretend to be united but will never be actually united.
JC: In UP, you used Mayawati and Owaisi and it benefited the BJP. Is there any such strategy in Rajasthan also?
We did not use Owaisi, he did campaigning of his own. He is free to campaign for us in Rajasthan also. If he is expanding base of his party, he will come to Rajasthan also. One thing I want to point out is that Ashok Gehlot should act on PFI. There is a huge conspiracy going on by the PFI in the state and communal incidents are result of that.
JC: Yogi brought a parallel policy for loudspeakers in UP. Why other states are not doing so?
In Rajgarh in Alwar, 80 shops were bulldozed but one was left on which a Muslim name was written although it was rented out by a Hindu to a Muslim. Why action was not taken in Karauli stone pelting where PFI conspired and now permission for playing bhajan on DJ will have to be taken.
JC: In Alwar demolition, CM Gehlot has said that permission was granted by BJP board. Then where is the Congress to blame?
The board had only asked to carry forward the Gaurav Path work but why a 300-year-old temple was demolished for that. But even houses were demolished just because people support the BJP there. The local MLA’s son was named in a rape case and he caused this demolition action to divert attention. Such action of removing temples does not happen in UP and MP, as all know what is thought process of the head of the state. Whether he follows the appeasement politics or Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas politics.
JC: They term it polarisation what you call appeasement and some people suspect that before elections many Karauli like incidents will happen in Rajasthan?
Who pelted stones in Karauli? The government should act strictly with everyone in the matter of law and order. But if the govt follows appeasement, as it was happening in UP during SP govt, then PFI’s network will expand so much that it would be tough to control it. Then Gehlot will only keep blaming the BJP. Our hundreds of workers are lodged in the jail by the Gehlot government. I think either government is not getting right feedback or the minister and the MLAs are unbridled.
JC: Pressure of local MLAs is there on govt usually?
Why is it no so in UP and MP? Why is it so in Rajasthan? The government has to think of everyone without caste and religion. Modi's schemes are not made separately for Hindus and Muslims.
Aditi: In MP also such incidents happened but the Centre did not act there?
Arun: Actually the bulldozer brand has become very popular. Whenever there is action on encroachments, the bulldozer is projected and the TRP increases.
JC: The BJP registered massive victory in 4 states but lost some recent assembly bypolls?
There is a difference in bypolls and main assembly polls. There is strategy for bypolls and the Central leaders too do not go for campaigning. We have won many bypolls also.
Aditi: In Rajasthan bypolls, wrong candidates were selected?
Yes, in candidate selection there has been error otherwise we would have won both elections.
Aditi: Is there any move of Sachin Pilot coming to the BJP?
In Rajasthan, BJP and Congress parties are main political fronts. So if someone joins the BJP, the person will come from Congress as there is no other big party. As far as Sachin Pilot is concerned, I am not aware of his moves. BJP has good trend of people joining it, let’s see what happens next. Whoever joins the BJP is an asset for the party.
Aditi: Next plans for Rajasthan?
We will carry out several programmes for strengthening the party cadre. National leaders will visit the state regularly. We will raise the local issues more effectively.
JC: (To Aditi) Sachin Pilot has recently met Sonia Gandhi and his supporters are enthused. Are there any reports of his joining the BJP in such a situation?
Aditi: Pilot is very confident after the meeting but if his demands are not fufilled then he may look out for options.
Arun: Much depends on the person leading. PM Modi is sarv gun sampan and honest leader, who has capacity to take decisions. But no such leadership is present in Congress.
JC: Do you not get tired in the role of state in-charge?
When the party leaders do not get tired, the workers also do not feel tired. They drive inspiration from the fact that if the leaders work so much then why should they also not work as much.