“This is the first time that central ministers have considered overthrowing state governments – Karnataka, MP…”: Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot
As Ashok Gehlot completes three years in his third term as Chief Minister of Rajasthan, he speaks to The Indian Express about the challenges so far, what lies ahead and why he thinks Rajasthan will finally break a three-decade tradition of not re-electing. a government.
What are the big projects that you think will help you get re-elected in 2023?
Our government has worked for every section of society and has posted the details of every beneficiary online. Our government has waived nearly Rs 15,000 crore in agricultural loans; provided an additional subsidy of Rs 1,000 on farmers’ electricity bills, leading to zero bills for around 3 lakh of farmers; received free treatment up to Rs 5 lakh through the Chiranjeevi Swasthya Bima Yojana; and during Covid, everything free, from testing to treatment. Government medical colleges are being opened in 30 districts, 123 new colleges have been opened, of which 32 are women’s colleges, we have given 1 lakh of government jobs while about 80,000 are in preparation, rules are being drawn up for contract workers, 88 lakh people are receiving social security pension, roads are being built in every Vidhan Sabha, complainants are being heard at police stations and industrial zones are being opened up in every block.
This is just a snapshot. People have endorsed our work time and time again. That’s why we won big in six of the Assembly’s eight by-elections, as well as in the polls of city local bodies and panchayati raj.
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The BJP has nothing to show when it comes to its previous governments or the Modi government. Therefore, they are doing hate politics across the country, in the name of caste, religion, class and language. We have always asked for development votes. Now the public has sworn they will vote in the name of development…Even after three years, there is no anti-incumbency…The BJP has not been able to promote enmity due to the rigor from our government and instead their leaders are fighting amongst themselves.
The kind of handling of Corona that we have done, there has been no upset, as seen in other states…This time the public will break a tradition since 1993 and vote again in Congress.
What will the government’s direction be over the next two years?
Health and social security have always been the priority of our government. So we didn’t let anyone go without treatment during the Covid and didn’t let anyone go hungry. Our government has given financial assistance of Rs 5,500 to 33 lakh families. We also provided dry rations and meals for Rs 8 through Indira Rasoi. Our state has immense investment opportunities and we are hosting an “Invest Rajasthan” summit in January. Welfare of farmers, empowerment of women, improved delivery of public services, right to health bill, providing opportunities for young people will be our focus.
The bill on the “right to health” has been in preparation for a long time. Likewise, the law of liability. The final draft would be ready, but for the objections of some bureaucrats.
The right to health is our priority.
And to fix accountability, our government in the previous term introduced the Public Service Guaranteed Service Act and the Right to a Hearing Act. We are working to strengthen these two laws and are examining the need for a new law.
The NCRB report indicates that crime has increased significantly in Rajasthan. In rape cases, Jaipur (409) is just behind Delhi (967), while the state is third overall in crimes against women, after Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
The NCRB report says from the outset that the crime is the result of various circumstances. We should avoid comparing states solely on the basis of numbers due to various state-specific policies and procedures. Some people make the mistake of assuming that rising crime and rising crime records are the same thing. Our government introduced mandatory registration of FIRs in 2019. Previously, the police wrote the report on a blank sheet and only filed an FIR when they found evidence. But women and marginalized communities faced problems because of it. Now everyone’s FIR is recorded.
Not only that, in 2019 our government set up a special unit to investigate crimes against women under the leadership of a deputy rank SP officer in each district, now promoted to additional SP. For this reason, the investigation time in heinous cases such as rape has decreased from 274 days in 2017-2018 to 73. We have also appointed lawyers in the courts, so that the culprit is not released. This is the reason why you keep reading that an accused was punished in 10 days or a decision rendered in a month.
But it is worrying that people denigrate this policy. Of FIRs filed for crimes against women, 45.88% were found to be false in 2019, 45.23% in 2020, and 47.56% in 2021, through June… The state is slandered because people abuse of the law in this way.
This is your third term as CM. How about changed?
The biggest difference lies in the relationship between the Center and the State. Previously, they worked together, but now the Center treats opposition-led states in a stepmother way. Rajasthan has applied for national project status for the Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP). It was the Prime Minister himself who announced it, but nothing was done about it.
After the implementation of the GST, rajyon ke paas koi khaas aarthik sansadhan nahin bache hain (states no longer have any major source of revenue). The Center does not pay GST dues on time, which hampers state development work. They take unilateral decisions without consulting the States and the States must bear the consequences. And this is the first time that central ministers are plotting to overthrow state governments – Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh…
Several letters have been written by you to the Center on the issue of the ERCP. What was the response?
I wrote five letters to the Prime Minister and seven letters to Union Minister Jal Shakti. Minister Jal Shakti responded three times. The Center gave Rs 40,000 crore for the Ken-Betwa River Link project but took no action on the ERCP… We are determined to complete the ERCP so we have started work using the budget of the state itself, but it is difficult without the help of the Central, which is why we are applying for the status of a national project.
… The political one-upmanship has led to the blocking of development work. People in the state have realized that if you turn roti quickly, it leads to undercooked roti, so people will bless us again in 2023.
Gasoline, diesel and cylinder prices have increased. Do you think the BJP will lose some votes on this count?
Economically well-off BJP supporters might still support him, but ask the common man, the mazdoor, if their incomes have risen by the same amount as inflation. Over the past five years, 22 million people have fallen below the poverty line. Can making people poorer be in the interest of the nation as the BJP claims to be?… A Rs 20 lakh crore package was announced during the lockdown (Covid) but it was based on loans and the economy did not get to benefit from it.
At the recent rally in Jaipur, Rahul Gandhi said there was a difference between being Hindu and being Hindutva-vadi. Will Congress adopt soft Hindutva as a strategy?
I have already spoken about this question and I will repeat it. A Hindu is one who believes in truth, non-violence, love, brotherhood and tolerance. Hindus hate no one and respect all religions. But the chadm (pseudo) Hindutva-vadis believe in spreading violence, intolerance and hatred. The difference between Hindu and Hindutva-vadi chadm is the same as that between Gandhiji and Godse…
It is Rahulji’s belief that the BJP-RSS policy of hatred and violence after distorting the fundamental nature of Hinduism should end.
Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat’s name came up in the Sanjeevani Society case, and his call records also surfaced during the attempt to overthrow your government last year. Has there been action on both issues? Your OSD Lokesh Sharma has been summoned four times by the Delhi Police on the basis of his complaint.
This is the difference between their government and ours. We never use legal agencies for political purposes. The police, the SOG (Special Operations Group), the ACB (Anti-Corruption Bureau), all work independently. We never give them instructions about a specific person. The law will take its course and the courts will punish him…He (Shekhawat) complained about an issue regarding Rajasthan to the Delhi Police when the law clearly states that a complaint is filed where the offense has occurred. The Delhi police are working under pressure from the central government. But we believe that this bogus case (regarding OSD Sharma) will not hold up in court.
You advertised free sanitary napkins for women via Udaan Yojana.
There is such reluctance to discuss menstruation despite it being a natural process. I was surprised to know that about 62% of women in the country use means other than sanitary napkins. Doctors say that using a cloth during menstruation can lead to several diseases, including cervical cancer. Therefore, we have announced Rs 200 crore in this budget to provide sanitary pads to all women in the state.
I believe there should be a debate across the country and governments need to make plans (for this).