Rajasthan minister of state (MoS) for sainik kalyan, panchayati raj and rural development and home guard and civil defence, Rajendra Singh Gudha, has been upset with Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for the past several months. Gudha was part of the group of six BSP MLAs who merged with the Congress in 2019, a year after the 2018 Assembly polls, leaving the BSP without any MLA in the 200-member state Assembly. Incidentally, Gudha was also among six ex-BSP MLAs who had defected to the Congress during Gehlot’s previous chief ministerial tenure during 2008-13. In an interview with The Indian Express, Gudha speaks about growing resentment and discontent among six BSP MLAs whom he led into the Congress fold. Excerpts:
You led the group of six BSP MLAs that merged with the Congress in 2019. Why are you currently disgruntled?
All six of us merged with the Congress after leaving the BSP. Last time (during the 2008-13 Ashok Gehlot government) three of us had become ministers and three parliamentary secretaries. This time, two of our MLAs have not got any political post. Two MLAs, Lakhan Singh and Joginder Singh Awana, have got political posts but they haven’t even been given vehicles or staff. I was the one who brought all five of these MLAs to the Congress fold. They trusted me because I was a second-timer and had been with Gehlot ji in the past. But now they ask me everyday and I have no answer.
Why are you upset that Ramesh Meena is the cabinet minister for rural development and panchayati raj, while you are the MoS in his department?
Back in 2008, Ramesh Meena was a BSP MLA and I was the then BSP legislature party leader (when the group had merged with the Congress). Thereafter, he was made a parliamentary secretary. At that time I was a minister. Now during the political crisis (sparked by Congress leader and ex-deputy CM Sachin Pilot’s rebellion against Gehlot in 2020), Ramesh Meena ji was in Delhi (Meena was then in the Pilot-led rebel Congress faction) while we were in Jaipur, trying to save the Gehlot government. But despite that, he was promoted and I was demoted.
Your group of MLAs stood by the Congress during the 2020 political crisis as well as in the recent Rajya Sabha elections. Did you get any assurances from the CM?
Gehlot sahab ne bola to tha lekin wo baatein implement nahin ho rahi (Gehlot had given assurances but those have not been implemented). Had what he promised been implemented, there wouldn’t have been any need to do this interview with you.
You have said there is a growing uncertainty among your fellow MLAs over getting Congress tickets for the next Assembly elections due in December 2023.
The commitments that I had made to my fellow MLAs who merged with the Congress included the point that they will be made ministers and accommodated (politically). That commitment has not been fulfilled. Now they have this insecurity about whether they will even get a Congress ticket in the next elections.
You recently said you don’t belong to the Congress culture.
We have come from a different party. We won the elections on the BSP ticket. As for me, I win elections on the basis of my individual face. I am not from the Congress culture where one goes through outfits such as NSUI, Youth Congress, etc.
When we, the MLAs who have come from the BSP, sit together, I could feel the anger in them. With insecurity, they are also losing trust. If a child doesn’t get love from her family, she goes into depression.
BJP leader Golma Devi recently met you to make corruption complaint against minister Ramesh Meena, although you are the MoS in Meena’s department. Your comments?
Golma ji was also a minister along with me in the previous Gehlot government. She also used to live for more than a decade at the house which has been allotted to me now. And you have heard what all she has said (against Meena).
Any person who comes to me with a request or application, I will hundred per cent listen to her and try to resolve it. The things that are not in my hands are sent to the minister concerned or the Chief Minister. I will definitely send this too to the Chief Minister. She came with a certain pain and sense of being aggrieved, and I will put these in front of the CM and he will decide.
You supported the Gehlot government during the 2020 political crisis. Do you think that you haven’t got your dues and that those from the anti-Gehlot faction have been rewarded?
One hundred per cent! It is simple mathematics that even a student of the LKG can understand.