"UPA Would Also Have Built Ram Temple, It Was A Supreme Court Order": Ashok Gehlot To NDTV

The former Rajasthan chief minister said the results of the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections will shock everyone.

'UPA Would Also Have Built Ram Temple, It Was A Supreme Court Order': Ashok Gehlot To NDTV

Rajasthan has 25 Lok Sabha seats and will vote in two phases, starting Friday.

Attempting to prevent the BJP from capitalising on the construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, which is being seen as a major election issue, former Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot has said the Supreme Court had ordered the building of the temple and even the Congress-led UPA alliance would have done it if it had been in power. 

Undeterred by the BJP winning all 25 Lok Sabha seats in the state in 2014, 24 in 2019 (the sole remaining seat was won by an ally) and the Assembly elections last year, the senior Congress leader said in an exclusive interview with NDTV on Tuesday that the results of the upcoming general elections will shock everyone.

"The BJP is trying to confuse and distract people with its slogans of '400 paar' (the target of seats the party has set for the NDA in the upcoming polls). The atmosphere that they are trying to create is an artificial one. In 2014, they had 31% of the vote share, which means the majority of the ballots were cast against them. In 2019, they got 38%. Yes, the votes were divided but that does not mean they got a mandate of over 50%," Mr Gehlot said in Hindi.

Repeating the opposition's charge of the BJP-led government misusing central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, CBI and the Income Tax department, the former chief minister accused the BJP of doing whatever it likes. 

"They have installed a washing machine and the entire country knows what's happening in that machine. BJP MPs have not done anything for Rajasthan or the people of the state. People in every district are asking why they were missing," he said. 

When he was asked about the BJP saying that one of the key opposition issues had been finished with the construction of the Ram Temple, referring to questions raised by parties on why the promise in successive BJP manifestoes had not been fulfilled, Mr Gehlot said, "It was not an opposition issue, it was their own issue. The Supreme Court passed an order and the matter was resolved peacefully. Had there been a UPA government, we would have also built the temple. Since their government is in power, they did it," he said. 

'India's Image Hit'

Attacking the government for its alleged excesses, Mr Gehlot claimed that India's image has taken a hit because two chief ministers - former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal - have been arrested.

"There is talk about this across the globe. The US and Germany have spoken about it. They (the government) have also frozen Congress bank accounts. The United Nations spoke about this before the elections... On the one hand, they are talking about '400 paar' and, on the other,  they are inducting people from the opposition," he said. 

'Clarified Twice on Bonds'

On the BJP claiming that the opposition got more money through electoral bonds than it did, Mr Gehlot said the party is worried. 

"The Prime Minister gave clarifications on the issue twice. He never clarifies or comments on anything... This should tell you all you need to know. The Supreme Court has declared the scheme illegal. They used the ED to get money, which agency did we have? They gathered Rs 8,500 crores in their accounts through this route," he said.  

Party United?

The former chief minister's son, Vaibhav Gehlot, is contesting from the Jalore-Sirohi Lok Sabha constituency and the senior Congress leader said they have been getting good reports about how the party will do in the seat. "Why just Vaibhav, all of our candidates - despite not having access to funds - will do well because of our dedicated workers, who are making do with meagre resources," Mr Gehlot said. 

The senior Congress leader said he was happy with the ticket distribution. When he was asked whether the party was united, given his disagreements with his former deputy Sachin Pilot in the past, he answered in the affirmative. 

The first phase of the general elections will be held on Friday and 12 constituencies in Rajasthan will be voting on that day. The remaining will vote during the second phase on April 26, and the counting will be done on June 4.