Vaibhav Gehlot, popularly known as Junior Gehlot, has been fielded by the Congress from Jodhpur. Vaibhav, son of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, is pitted against Union Minister of State Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. Junior Gehlot opens up in an interview with The Kochi Post.
Your father is the incumbent Chief Minister of Rajasthan and has been a stalwart Congress leader. Does that put extra pressure on you?
Every son feels proud to be compared to his father. My father never saw me as someone who is not good enough. He is a tall leader. I have always ensured that I didn’t do anything to tarnish his reputation.
This is your first election. How does it feel?
I am contesting elections for the first time but I have been involved with the party since 2004. I started my career with Youth Congress, after which I moved to Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee (RPCC) and then became a member of the All India Congress Committee (AICC). I have participated actively in not just the campaigns of my father but also of other senior Congress leaders. Beyond Jodhpur, I have personally worked a lot in Sawai Madhopur and Jhalawar in 2009 and 2014 as well. I am confident.
How do you connect with people?
I tell them that I will be there for all of them without any discrimination over caste, gender, or religion. I always talk about the Congress party, its ideology, and the current situation. I have campaigned in Jodhpur even prior to this. That time also I talked about people’s issues. What is different this time is that I am putting my candidature first. I am requesting the voters to vote for me.
What are the major issues in Jodhpur that you plan to cater to?
There was a BJP government in power till three months ago. The roads need repairing and there’s the issue of availability of electricity and drinking water in villages. My main focus will be on these areas. In the city area I would focus on making the environment business-friendly apart from infrastructure-related projects. The students require mentorship and counselling-related services for their careers. Several new universities were set up in Jodhpur during previous Congress government. The city has seven Vice-Chancellors. I will promote higher education.
Your opponent Gajendra Singh Shekhawat won by the highest number of votes in the previous election and Narendra Modi is also popular in this region; do you see this election as a challenge?
I feel every election is a challenge – be it for a Pradhan or assembly election or Lok Sabha election. I am taking this up as a challenge. I am taking on the BJP. For the BJP, it is a one-man show. I do not consider Modi a factor. My fight is against the party. All people of Jodhpur including the party workers are fighting my election. It is an election of the will of the people of Jodhpur.
BJP has charged CM Ashok Gehlot of using government machinery to win this election. How would you respond to that?
People of Rajasthan know who Ashok Gehlot is. He will never indulge in such negative things. Residents of Jodhpur will give a befitting reply to such wanton statements through their ballots on April 29.
What is the impression among people of Jodhpur about the previous Raje government?
People of Jodhpur know that they were not treated at par with other divisions of Rajasthan in the last five years. They always say that Marwar region was neglected during the previous BJP government. Smart City is one project that should have come to a city like Jodhpur, as it is the second largest city in Rajasthan after Jaipur. BJP cannot give any legitimate explanation as to why Jodhpur was not included in the cities selected for the Smart City project. Ajmer got the project but no concrete answer was given to us for ignoring Jodhpur. Jodhpur suffered on account of being home to Gehlot but it is actually an insult to the people inhabiting it.
Your father has been a self-made leader. What has he passed on to you?
He has always told me to work for the poor, for the common man, and to be honest at all times. He has always told me to be grounded in public life. I have never lived as a Chief Minister’s son.
What steps are you taking to carve your own identity?
My father has a big stature in both state as well as national politics. However, I, as a party worker, would always strive to do my work and fulfil my responsibilities with utmost dedication and honesty and leave everything else to party workers.