Acknowledging that the Congress leadership in Maharashtra and Haryana threw in the towel even before the state polls were held last month, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said the party should now fight elections with its “full might”, not with a “defeatist mindset”.
Gehlot was speaking at The Indian Express Idea Exchange Friday even as the Election Commission announced the schedule for Assembly elections in Jharkhand.
Arguing that people are “angry” and “distressed” with the BJP-led central government’s “mismanagement” of the economy, Gehlot said it was time for the Congress and other Opposition parties to hit the streets. “And when the agitation will kick off, those who are working under pressure now…the judiciary, income tax, ED or CBI..their ways will change. When the mood will change, the mood of the public on the streets will change…bureaucrats and agencies, they will understand that there can be a change anytime. Now the country is going in one direction… look at the judiciary. We never expected that the judiciary will behave this way,” he said.
Questioning the logic behind holding five-phased elections in Jharkhand, Gehlot also demanded that the government explore the possibility of state funding of elections to bring transparency and eliminate the use of black money.
“The EC has announced that elections in Jharkhand will be held in five phases…Why were Jharkhand elections not held along with those of Haryana and Maharashtra? And 5-phase elections in such a small state…The Election Commission is acting on a whim and there is nobody to question it. All the institutions have been destroyed. Look at the Planning Commission,” he said.
Gehlot described the economic situation is a matter of deep concern. “Everyone is distressed. Businesses and industries have taken a hit. People are losing jobs, be it in automobile sector, real estate or small trade. There is huge anger and there is an atmosphere of fear also, which should not be there in a democracy,” he said.
Gehlot also said the media is under tremendous pressure, and that there is fear of raids by agencies hanging over its head.
Asked about the Congress leadership’s approach to the Haryana and Maharashtra elections, with not many of its central leaders seen campaigning, Gehlot said: “I accept that we did not campaign in Haryana and Maharashtra the way we should have with enthusiasm. Had we campaigned that way, the outcome could have been different… The local leadership should have shown the guts needed. They should have approached the elections saying we will perform our duty, come what may. That we have been chief ministers, ministers, we will fight with all our might and help whoever who needed support. That did not happen.”
Gehlot said: “When such an atmosphere develops, even the central leadership finds it difficult to go (for campaigning). The central leadership goes when there is demand. There was an atmosphere that we will lose the elections anyway. When you yourself think that way… that was a blunder.”
Stressing that the party should “enter the electoral field with all its might”, the Chief Minister said: “You never know when the public mood will change. When the public mood can change vis-a-vis Indira Gandhi, it can change in the case of (Narendra) Modi, too. Every Congress worker should show the courage. Defeats and victories are part of democracy,” he said.
Apart from the BJP, Gehlot also accused the RSS of acting like an “extra constitutional authority”. “It was said during the Emergency that Sanjay Gandhi was acting like an extra constitutional authority. What is the RSS now? And is the media writing about it? The RSS is being consulted before appointing a chief minister or a minister. Every minister has an RSS person working with him as an OSD…their writ runs and not the minister’s…but the media does not write all this,” he claimed.