Passed over for the post of the BJP state unit president in election-bound Rajasthan after chief minister Vasundhara Raje’s objections, Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawathas taken a veiled swipe at Raje and said that the party needs to introspect over its recent bypoll losses in the state. “Our by-election losses are a cause for concern. The party needs to introspect – and we have also discussed extensively – why we have lost all 17 out of 17 by-elections in Rajasthan,” Shekhawat, Union minister of state for agriculture and farmers’ welfare, said in an exclusive conversation with media Shekhawat, who represents Jodhpur in the Lok Sabha, was believed to be BJP president Amit Shah’s choice to head the party’s state unit but was overlooked after Raje expressed her reservations. Shekhawat said elections in the country are fought on the face of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Let nobody be mistaken. Be it assembly elections (in Rajasthan) or parliamentary elections in 2019 – the elections are fought and won in the name of our Prime Minister,” he said. In Rajasthan, he said, the BJP lost the by-elections largely because of local factors. “There are lessons to be learnt. We need booth-level micromanagement and better caste combination, better caste chemistries to win elections,” he said.
The minister admitted that farm distress is a key issue in the runup to the assembly election, which is due towards the end of this year. “You need to understand the working of Modi government – it stands for complete reform. In the initial years, you couldn’t see the work as we were concentrating on fundamental reform of the sector. We have always had farmers in our mind. This is why MSP (minimum support price) was announced now. But the biggest challenge remains procurement, which we are working on,” he said. Shekhawat brushed aside suggestions of a strong antiincumbency against Raje-led BJP government. “Vasundhara ji has worked very hard in the state. I believe that the more a person works, there are greater expectations of the people from them and then there are greater disappointments. So we will work harder now,” he said. The Centre is all set to clear the Rs 40,451 crore Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project. Shekhawat said the biggest-ever irrigation and drinking water supply project for the desert state could go a long way in addressing the state’s biggest problems