NEW DELHI: While Congress leaders leave no chance to lash out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Tuesday heaped lavish praise on him. The PM, too, returned the compliment. The mutual appreciation between the two constitutional heads may embarrass the Congress which, at the time, has been attacking the PM with all guns blazing over the Morbi bridge collapse in Gujarat.
In a high profile function, Modi declared Mangarh Dham situated in Rajasthan as a national monument in the presence of three CMs – Bhupendra Patel of Gujarat and Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh besides Gehlot.
Others present on the occasion included MP governor Mangubhai Patel, Union ministers Faggan Singh Kulaste and Arjun Ram Meghwal besides four state ministers and leader of opposition in the Rajasthan assembly Gulab Chand Kataria.
In the presence of all these leaders, Gehlot lavishly praised Modi. He said the country was achieving historic feats one after the other. The respect for our country has grown by leaps and bounds, he said.
Gehlot said, “We were slaves once upon a time and now our country has achieved great heights. Prime Minister Modi receives huge respect whenever he visits abroad. It is because he is the PM of a country of Mahatma Gandhi where the roots of democracy are strong and deep and where democracy is alive even after 70 years of independence. The world feels proud when it realises that Modi is coming from such a country. You can realise how this country has moved forward.”
Modi too showered praises on Gehlot, calling him one of the seniormost CMs. In his address, the PM said, “It is a matter of pleasure for me that I had the opportunity to visit the holy place and bow my head here. As a CM, Ashok ji and I used to work together. Ashok ji was seniormost among the group of chief ministers. He is still one of the seniormost CMs. And even now, Ashok ji is one of the seniormost CMs among those who are sitting on the dais.”
Gehlot kept smiling as the PM kept lauding him.
What the Rajasthan CM said went against the grain of his party’s official line which always bashes the PM. The principal opposition party’s latest issue to attack Modi is the bridge collapse in Gujarat on Sunday killing about 150 people.
The Congress also attacks Modi for his foreign visits and “lack of democracy” in the country under his government. However, Gehlot sang paeans about the country’s progress, strengthening of democracy and its rising respect in the world.
Of late, Gehlot has been taking a line different from his party leadership and is getting away with it. The latest in the series is his praise of Modi.
Earlier, he was chosen to succeed Sonia Gandhi as the Congress president and hand over Rajasthan’s governance to his bete noir Sachin Pilot. Central observers Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken failed to convene a meeting of the Congress legislature party (CLP) to choose Gehlot’s successor due to the revolt from party MLAs loyal to the CM.
Kharge, who now is the Congress president, and Maken were forced to return to Delhi without settling the succession issue in Rajasthan. Later, Gehlot was summoned to Delhi where he apologised to Sonia and withdrew his candidature for the Congress president’s post.
Even though the party leadership had announced that it would take action in the revolt, it has not been able to take a decision in the matter as yet.
Subsequently, Gehlot invited businessman Gautam Adani to invest in his state even though party leaders, particularly Rahul Gandhi, accuse the latter of getting undue favours from Modi.
Jostle for tribal votes
Meanwhile, the BJP and the Congress were seen competing to woo the tribal vote in Mangarh Dham, where, according to Gehlot, more than 1,500 protesting tribal people under the leadership of Govind Guru were gunned down by the British in 1913. The incident had happened before the Jallianwala massacre which took place on April 13, 1919 in Punjab killing about 1,000 people.
Gehlot recently wrote a letter to Modi stating that Mangarh Dham in the Mewar region was also a Jallianwala kind of a place and demanded that it should be declared as a national monument.
He also referred to the Pal-Dadhvav massacre that took place on March 7, 1922 in Sabarkantha district of Gujarat killing more than 1,000 tribal people.
The area in and around Mangarh Dham in Rajasthan, Gujarat and MP is dominated by the tribal population. Altogether, there are 99 assembly seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the three states – 25 in Rajasthan, 27 in Gujarat and 47 in MP.
While Gujarat is likely to face assembly election later this year, Rajasthan and MP go to polls about a year later.