By Archana Sharma
Jaipur, May 1 (IANS) Union Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore is fascinated by the mode of communication used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which he feels has influenced each and every section of people in the country.
The ace shooter, who has an Olympic silver medal to his name, is seeking re-election on a BJP ticket from the Jaipur Rural Lok Sabha constituency which goes to the polls on May 6.
In a battle of Olympians, Rathore will face a formidable opponent in Congress’ Krishna Poonia, a discuss thrower whose best showing was a sixth-place finish at the 2012 London Olympics.
In an exclusive interview with IANS, Rathore, the Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, said: “I am surprised to see rural women discussing Modi and his work after toiling hard throughout the day. They wake up early in the morning, clean the house, cook food, go for harvesting in the fields, return home tired in the evening and then discuss Modi and his schemes.
“There is some kind of communication which is going on, and as the Information and Broadcasting Minister, I feel it will be a very interesting case study to find out the exact mode of communication being used here.”
Asked about the Opposition’s allegation that freedom of media was being curtailed under Modi, Rathore said: “We have never tried to curb media’s freedom. We definitely want the media to play a responsible role, but we have never tried to regulate it in any way. However, the Congress in its election manifesto has tried to regulate the media as per its own perspective.”
The Congress in its manifesto promised to pass a law to curb monopolies in the media, cross-ownership of different segments of the media and control of the media by other business organisations.
Terming the Opposition’s allegation that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was politicising the Balakot air strike as “horrific,” Rathore said: “Imagine if the operation had failed…Who would have taken the responsibility? What would have been the fate of the elections then? But there was no time to think about these parameters, as the main objective was to give a loud and clear message to the enemy nation (Pakistan) that ‘don’t mess with us’.”
“We all saw the success of the air strike. Now look at the other side. Had the operation boomeranged, who would have taken the responsibility? Definitely it would have been our Prime Minister as the buck stops with him. So he should also be given the credit for the success of the air strike.
“Also, our forces need due recognition for carrying out such operations. I remember my colleagues getting upset when they couldn’t find any stories about their deeds in the newspapers and television channels. They used to ask me why they were not featured in the media despite carrying out many operations. They wanted recognition, which is happening now and it’s sad that the Opposition is calling it politicisation,” Rathore, who took voluntary retirement from the Indian Army in 2013 to join politics, added.
Asked how he spent 113 per cent of MPLAD (Members of Parliament Local Area Development) funds, he said: “I have never acted as a politician in all these five years. In most cases, MPs give money to the villages which vote for them. But I ensured that the money reached every panchayat.”
On his reaction to the Congress accusing the BJP of bad planning in the construction of National Highway 8 (NH8) connecting Delhi-Mumbai via Rajasthan, which has led to many accidents, Rathore, in return, hit out at the party for not completing it in time, as well as “making a mess of it”.
Commending Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari for personally overseeing the completion of the project, he also faulted the contract signed by the Congress in 2009, claiming it had caused waster of “thousands of crores of tax payers’ money”.
On the importance of the caste factor in the ongoing elections, Rathore said: “It is the Congress which is busy aligning castes and manufacturing lies on Rafale, Goods and Services Tax (GST) and other such issues. However, there is no resonance among the people on these issues.”
To which role he liked the best, that of an army officer, a sportsman or a politician, he said: “I am lucky to have gained experience in three best places. One just can’t buy experience, one needs to live it and gain it.
“Also, you can’t be cast in a single role always. I think politics has made me a better person. It has helped me enhance my communicating skills with people. As a shooter, I used to be a silent person, focussing quietly on my goal.”
(Archana Sharma can be reached at [email protected])