For five years, when Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje sat in opposition and faced scathing accusations from the ruling Congress, she never stood up to counterattack or even defend herself. She finally hit back a month after coming back to power, in the first session of the assembly. In a one-hour, 18-minute speech, Raje was direct and oblique as she stung the decimated Congress.
“God has blessed everyone with the power of speech and we can all speak but I believe dignity and decency are priceless ornaments that I will always adorn. Over the last five years we have seen a constant exchange of allegations and counter-allegations. We have seen how the leaders of this House wanted to only harass the opposition.” She called it the keechad uchhalne ki pravriti (mudslinging tendency). “The more they engaged in mudslinging, the more lotuses have bloomed. I thank the people of Rajasthan for taking note of this. I pledge that the environment that was created in the 13th Legislative Assembly (the previous one) will not be repeated during my tenure,” she said.
“There was an advertisement drive by the previous government in which I found they spent around Rs 11.50 crore to say ‘aisa pehli baar hua hai’ (referring to Congress pre-poll ads highlighting new policies and initiatives). For the first time people have given them a fitting reply. For the first time the BJP has been voted to power with 81.50 per cent seats, for the first time we have so many minority leaders, we have won 32 of 34 reserved seats and a Dalit is the speaker of the House,” she said.
She went on to attack the Ashok Gehlot government for leaving the state in the red and dismantled his dream projects one by one. Calling the big-ticket Metro rail in Jaipur and oil refinery in Barmer unprofitable ventures, she blamed her predecessor for missing the forest for the trees. From employment generation to power supply, from health to law and order, she picked holes in his schemes. On this climactic pitch, she dealt her strongest blow. “Ab aap sadak par aa jaiye,” she said, sounding effortlessly casual, and then quickly added, “Respected Speaker, you know I did not mean it that way. I meant let us come to the next subhead — roads.”
This is the same House where Raje had to endure so many blows. But she has certainly had the last laugh.
Sweta is a principal correspondent based in Jaipur.