A “cuppa with (Chief Minister) Ashok Gehlot” and a chance to learn “magical qualities from the magician” who has loomed large over Rajasthan’s political landscape for over four decades – these are on Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat’s cheeky wish list for after Saturday’s election, which is widely seen as a straight fight between the ruling Congress and opposition BJP.
In an exclusive interview with NDTV, the senior BJP leader declared he had been waiting to have a cup of tea with Mr Gehlot, and hoped to do so after the elections, when he will be free because “the entire society is standing together to remove the Ashok Gehlot government”.
“I want to learn something from the jadugar (magician),” he said, underlining confidence within the BJP ahead of polling this weekend in a state that has voted out the incumbent every time since 1993.
“I am waiting for the day when I can have tea with Gehlot… he is going to be out of the government and will not find a place in Delhi either. He will have time on his hands now… want to have tea with him because I want to learn some political magic,” Mr Shekhawat chuckled.
“His name was nowhere… yet he became Chief Minister three times,” he continued, taking a swipe at the Congress veteran who has also won five Assembly and five Lok Sabha elections.
With less than four days before the election, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat spoke to NDTV on a number of issues, including his party’s chances and its response to the Congress social welfare campaign.
“This is an election in which people are expressing their desire to vote out the Ashok Gehlot government. It is an election of reaction… Why does a government have to give freebies in its last year? Is it because they failed in the first four?” Mr Shekhawat told NDTV.
The Union Jal Shakti Minister hit out at the Congress over its seven pre-poll promises, which include English-medium government schools, financial aid for women, and subsidised cooking gas cylinders.
“Why do you give guarantees at the end? The promises are hollow. You say you will give cylinder for Rs 500… but Government of India is already giving for Rs 600. (The state) government says ‘we will feed milk to every child in school’… but no milk was purchased. What happened to the scheme?”
“People won’t believe in false promises… there are immense possibilities in Rajasthan. It can become growth engine of India, a driver of change. There is industrial investment climate here,” Mr Shekhawat said, stepping up his attack on Mr Gehlot and the Congress government.
“Under government formed under leadership of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji, so much investment has come in the last 10 years… 65 per cent of investment in last 75 years happened during Modiji’s tenure, because it is a stable government… there is no policy paralysis.”
“I am not against the schemes they have run for public welfare… but the schemes should not be for appeasement. There should be change and empowerment in life,” the Union Minister said.
Finally, Mr Shekhawat – seen by some as an outside bet for the Chief Minister’s post – also discussed his chances at the top job. “I have already said it is not my right. I live in the present… have never worked thinking about what will happen tomorrow. I do what I can for my country today.”