As Yatras Progress, Wordy Duel Intensifies
The two yatras undertaken by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje have been reduced to a wordy duel between the two leaders. While the former’s yatra is christened Congress Sandesh Yatra, the latter’s yatra is called Suraj Sankalp Yatra.
With the backing of the state government machinery, Gehlot has been drawing more crowds than Vasundhara. The workers of both the parties are vying with each other to get the crowds and the ticket seekers of both the parties try and get bus loads of people to impress upon their leaders.
With both the yatras in full swing, it is still difficult to make an assessment of the people’s preference for the political parties. The Congress has done well to dilute the anti-incumbency factor and the people are praising the free medicine scheme and the pension scheme offered by the Congress government.
“The state government is throwing the revenue through various schemes to woo the electorate. Never before in the state, the money was spent the way Congress is doing. Several hundred crores of the state revenue is being disbursed among the people. The BJP is trying to make the people understand that the lot of the people will not change with such sops,” says Kailash Nath Bhatt, BJP spokesperson.
However the BJP cadre feels that the various welfare and flagship schemes launched by the Congress government did change the scenario and the yatra undertaken by Gehlot has helped the party get the attention of people.
“The Congress is trying to impress upon the people by trumpeting about the free medicine scheme and free pathological tests. But where are the doctors in the hospital. People go to government hospitals and dispensaries and return home after seeing long line of people. The delivery system is poor and the much-publicised free medicine scheme has not been able to have any impact,” said Vasundhara Raje.
During the yatras, Gehlot never misses any opportunity to criticise Vasundhara Raje and often accuses her of keeping herself away from people for four years. He openly accuses her by saying that she presided over one of the most corrupt governments in the state where man like Lalit Modi used to sit in a palace hotel and ask the officers to report to him.
“It was men like Modi who were running the government and Vasundhara is still in touch with him. During the BJP rule, the state was ruled by people with vested interest and such people looted the state with both hands. I warn people if they choose to bring back the BJP into power, the same set of people will again come and rule the state. Even the BJP leaders have accused Vasundhara of indulging in corruption,” said Gehlot.
But the people realise that Gehlot understands the power and popularity of Vasundhara Raje. The BJP came to power in 2003 when Vasundhara took out her Parivartan Yatra. She went to each village of the state mustering support of people, which resulted in winning 120 seats by the party. “Gehlot is wise enough to understand that Vasundhara Raje is a popular figure. Thus even before Vasundhara could start her Suraj Sankalp Yatra, Gehlot started his Congress Sandesh Yatra. It did not take long for the people to understand that Vasundhara has come as a big challenge to the Congress. She is drawing crowds and the same people will throw the Congress government out of power. The yatra has become a ritual where Gehlot calls Vasundhara corrupt and inefficient and Vasundhara never misses any opportunity to criticise the Gehlot government on its failure on various fronts,” said BJP’s secretary Sunil Kothari.
The BJP caught the Congress government on wrong foot when the party’s national secretary Kirit Somaiya claimed that the Congress government extended undue benefits to Kothari group’s Om Metal to build a luxurious residential complex near the state secretariat.
“Gehlot accuses Vasundhara Raje of encouraging corruption during her reign. But he should answer why his government gave the permission to Om Metal to build the residential complex by relaxing various building norms. His son Vaibhav Gehlot is a consultant to Om Metal and it’s the son who facilitated the deal. The builder has been allowed to go higher than 15-metre and the land use was also changed. This deal is worth Rs 1000 crore and the builder is going for an eight-floor building. The luxury flats are being sold for Rs six to seven crore. It’s the biggest building scam of the state and the Gehlot government should make the documents public,” said Somaiya.
The Rashtriya Janta Party (RJP) leader Dr Kirori Lal Meena, who is trying to forge a third front in the state and eying ST and SC votes to become a kingmaker in case of a hung Assembly, has limited appeal. He belongs to eastern Rajasthan and has been trying to woo the ST and the SC votes of southern Rajasthan to upset the apple cart of both —the Congress and the BJP.
The BSP which had won six seats in the last Assembly elections had the mortification of seeing all its six legislators joining the Congress. All of the MLAs were later made ministers and parliamentary secretaries, giving stability to the minority government led by Ashok Gehlot.
But the BSP is unlikely to give these six MLAs ticket again. There is an opposition against the six MLAs even in the Congress and during the recent visit of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi the issue of these BSP MLAs were raised. It seems the Congress will not renominate these BSP MLAs.
Meanwhile, the BSP has already decided not to allow the entries of the six MLAs into the party. In fact, the BSP is trying to contest all the 200 seats and after the experience of losing all its six MLAs to Congress, the party is doubly cautious and is looking for the real loyalists. The BSP has already started the process of selecting the candidates and after finalising the list of such candidates it would forward their names for approval to the BSP supremo Mayawati.
Rahul Gandhi had hinted that the Congress will finalise the names of majority of candidates by the end of July. He said that the Congress adopted the strategy in the Karnataka elections for its electoral success. Rahul feels that if the candidates’ names are announced a few months in advance they would find it easy to campaign.
But the party cadres feel that such move would harm the interest of the party and would lead to dissension among the candidates who were denied tickets. The cadres feel that the party’s tickets should be announced only in the last minute, otherwise, it would encourage rebellion in the party.
The BJP secretary general and inchage of Rajasthan Kaptan Singh Solanki said that his party would name its candidate just a few days before the last date for filing the nomination.
By Prakash Bhandari from Jaipur