Updated: July 21, 2020 2:58:42 pm
Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who has been accused by the Congress of taking active role in disrupting the Ashok Gehlot government, talks to Liz Mathew about the political crisis in Rajasthan.
How do you see the political developments in Rajasthan?
The government is in a minority because of an internal fight in the Congress between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot – a fight that has been there since this government was elected. If you look at the incidents -– from the election victory (in 2018) to selection of Chief Minister to (the crisis) today — you will know there has been a vertical division in the party and in the government. We have been saying (all along that) it is vertically divided…but they always denied.
Today Gehlot is saying that he and the (former) deputy chief minister have not spoken to each other for 18 months; he said that his former deputy CM (Pilot) was good for nothing. At the same time, he is blaming us for this. How are we responsible for them not talking to each other, and that his PCC chief was good for nothing? For everything, he is trying to put the dirt on us. Now all that is exposed.
In this crisis, Vasdundhara Raje, a former CM, and Satish Punia, the BJP state chief, are not being blamed. Why is the Congress attacking you?
The Congress knows that better. But what I understand is, initially I thought he was using my shoulders to train his guns on his PCC chief (Pilot), but now I realise he was trying to kill two birds with one stone: finish Sachin Pilot and defame me. All I have done is, I defeated his (Gehlot’s) son Vaibhav in the election [from Jodhpur Lojk Sabha seat].
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Is it also because you have been the voice and face of BJP in Rajasthan in this crisis?
I was talking, but I said we are nowhere in this game. We are just watching.
But why were BJP leaders sympathising with Pilot?
We are in the political field; this much is allowed.
The Congress demands that you should step down.
They are free to say what they want. Does the Congress (think if they) make an allegation that I made the calls, I would quit politics? Congress leaders, including Randeep Singh Surjewala, were saying I made the calls; I fabricated it [in one of the audio clips, the Union minister is allegedly heard in a purported conversation to topple the Rajasthan government]. But why did they not name me in the FIR? If you could not do even that, why did you ask me to quit? You should tell us how the tape got leaked.
You should tell me who fabricated it. The recording can happen only three ways: either (through) the persons in conversation, or the service provider, or agencies. Among the persons who were allegedly talking in the tape, Gajendra Singh was the third person getting connected. Where are the other parts of the tape?
If it was the MLA [allegedly Congress’s Bhanwarlal Sharma] and Sanjay Jain who were in conversation, how did the phone get patched directly with the third person? If security agencies were recording, there should have been permission. The Home Secretary has already told the media that there was no permission. Anyway, the voice is not mine, nor is it my language.
Are you ready to give a voice sample, as the Congress has demanded?
I am ready, but first let them establish the authenticity of the tape. If they can fabricate the tape, can’t they get my voice sample also?
Have the developments in Jaipur gone the way the BJP expected? After Pilot’s rebellion, did things go wrong for BJP?
Where is BJP in the picture? We were not expecting anything. There was a vertical divide in the (Congress) party and we were expecting there would be a split. We were sure that this government will not complete five years. Our leaders were saying that, and we always knew it would not last.
But there seems to be a listlessness in the BJP. We have seen BJP in action mode in other states, including Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, when there is sign of crisis in the ruling party. Why?
There is no initiative from the party; still we are blamed. Now they are saying Mukul Rohtagi (senior advocate and former Attorney General) is a BJP leader. I would like to ask Congress leaders: does Harish Salve [both senior advocates are representing Pilot and rebel MLAs in SC] not argue any other case than that of BJP? They are lawyers; it’s their job.
In Karnataka and Maharashtra we have seen BJP marching to Raj Bhavan and protest.
This is evidence to prove that BJP was not doing anything to pull down the government.
What is the BJP doing in the current situation?
What can we do now? Let the court decide. We will see what we can do. Let’s see what stand Pilot-saab is taking. After that, let’s see. Also, let things go to the floor of the House.
Do you see the possibility of Gehlot and Pilot burying the hatchet?
I don’t think so. It’s a scripted story, and Gehlot is the producer and director (of it); he has decided the climax, too. If there is a deviation from the climax he has decided, one can see his restlessness. If you go back to the last few days, you can see that whenever there are reports of Congress leadership being in touch with Pilot, Gehlot showed frustration.
Three days ago he said he would welcome back Pilot, but when reports came that the (Congress) leadership is in touch with him, his reaction changed.
What is the immediate future of Rajasthan politics?
The future of the people in the state is in darkness. There’s so much uncertainty. But they are certain that the government’s priority has been to resolve the issues between the CM and the deputy CM. The CM has been so busy to get rid of the “good for nothing deputy CM”; now the priority is to save his chair.
At a time when the state is going through a pandemic, we have seen ruling party MLAs playing ‘antakshari’ at a resort and watching ‘Sholay’. At a time when the government should be feeding the poor, the Gehlot government was learning to cook Italian…
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