Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot has objected to Jagdeep Dhankhar’s frequent visits to the state in the run-up to the year-end Assembly elections, saying “people understand why the Vice-President is coming here again and again” and that “they will give a befitting reply”.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a precedent by leading his party’s campaign in the states, apart from deploying key cabinet colleagues for micro-management, constitutional officials such as the Vice-President had so far not been used for electioneering. No chief minister had insinuated earlier that the Vice-President was canvassing for a political party in elections.
Vice President and Chairman of Rajya Sabha Jagdeep Dhankhar inaugurates the regional Groundnut Research Centre and Central Arid Horticulture Institute, in Bikaner, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023 PTI picture
Gehlot said: “The Vice-President is going up and down. He will go to five places today on a helicopter. Be it Vice-President or governor, we respect everybody. The Vice-President says Rajasthan is my native place, no need to receive me in keeping with protocol. We will respect the Vice-President even when he becomes the President. Lekin kripa karke abhi meharbani rakhen (But please spare us now).”
Pointing out that the Vice-President’s was a constitutional post which cannot be associated with any party or government, Gehlot added: “Abhi jo baar baar subah
sham aa rahe hain, daure kar rahe hain, koi tuk nahin hai. Kya tuk hai?”
“Chunav chal rahe hain Rajasthan ke andar, aap baar baar aaoge, kya log samjhenge aapke baare mein? Aap chaahte kya ho (You are coming repeatedly morning and evening. What’s the rationale? None. What will people think about you if you tour the state so frequently during elections? What is your intention?)”
Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar during an event to lay the foundation stone of ICAR's Regional Millet Center, at Gudamalani in Barmer, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. PTI picture
The Congress veteran contended that he never discriminated against people holding constitutional posts and recalled how he gave a grand welcome to veteran BJP leader Bhairon Singh Shekhawat when he became Vice-President during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s time. A visibly angry Gehlot said: “People understand why the Vice-President is coming here again and again. They will give a befitting reply.”
Gehlot’s frustration is understandable because both the frequency of the Vice-President’s visits and the content of his speeches have betrayed a brazen partisan objective. Dhankhar’s logic that Rajasthan is his native place has not convinced many as he has been touring the state with a packed schedule of public engagements. The local media is analysing how his visits will sway Jat voters in the BJP’s favour.
In the past 30 days, Dhankhar has been to Rajasthan on August 27, September 4, 5, 12, 14, 23 and 27. He has addressed several government programmes in Jaipur, Jhunjhunu, Churu, Bharatpur, Tonk, Kota, Ajmer, Udaipur, Chittorgarh and Bikaner. Congress leaders say he is the main campaigner, engaged more intensely than any of the star campaigners.
What gives credence to the allegations about Dhankhar’s political role is the tenor and content of his speeches. On Wednesday, he described the women’s reservation bill passed in Parliament as a game-changer. This has appeared to many as a clear partisan position because the Opposition has accused the Modi government of delaying its implementation by many years by tying it to the census and delimitation.
Dhankhar described “corruption as a killer of growth and democracy” and declared that “power corridors have been totally neutralised of power brokers in the last 10 years”. He called on citizens to actively counter any anti-India rhetoric that tarnishes, defames and weakens institutions. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has often been in the BJP’s crosshairs for saying that India’s institutions have been weakened and were being controlled.
At one of his interactions with students in Kota, Dhankhar gave credit to the Prime Minister for the Chandrayaan-3 mission’s success as Modi had stood behind scientists like a rock after the failure of Chandrayaan-2.
On September 5, Dhankhar told students: “You are fortunate children of Bharat because you are living at a time when the ecosystem is supporting you to fully exploit your talent, your energy or potential to accomplish your dreams and aspirations. This was not the case earlier. The world is mesmerised, they are perplexed by India’s transformation.”
He claimed there were days when people had to take leave to pay bills, pointing out that such services have become technology-driven now. “This didn’t happen on its own, the government created an elaborate infrastructure.”
The Vice-President’s pronouncements resemble a political theme — he insists the people of India are living in “Amrit Kaal”, refers to issues like the Indian economy being in the “Fragile Five” during Manmohan Singh’s rule, alleges that power brokers and thugs ran the system under previous governments, and that there was “extra-legal leveraging in decision-making”, a possible reference to the alleged role of Sonia Gandhi during Singh’s tenure. Dhankhar claims all these “ills” afflicting the system have been cured.
The Vice-President doesn’t conceal his diatribes against the Opposition. In one speech he said: “If somebody gets an ED, CBI or income tax notice, he protests on the street. Is this proper? Go to court, seek relief. How can we tolerate it?”
He also referred to the ruckus in Parliament and criticised welfare schemes involving cash transfers, which Modi has been describing as “revri”, or freebies, in his attacks on the Opposition.