His name may have been doing rounds for the Congress presidents post but Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot seems to have set his eyes on ensuring his party retains power in next Assembly polls, a fete not achieved by any outfit in the state in two decades. To make this happen, he is banking on the schemes and initiatives launched by his government. The latest in the series of decisions touching the masses on a large scale is the Rural Olympic Games, which are going to start on Monday. The government claims that nearly 30 lakh people, both men and women, will be participating in the games. Earlier, the Gehlot government had announced the revival of the old pension scheme for employees, free treatment at OPDs in government hospitals, health insurance of Rs 10 lakh, subsidy in electricity bills, urban job guarantee scheme on the lines of MGNREGA and the distribution of smartphones among 1.33 crore women.
However, Gehlot is beset by several challenges, with the opposition BJP in the state attacking his government over law and order and the condition of the Dalits. But a party leader said the chief minister has learnt from his past experiences. “He is working with a multidimensional approach ever since he came to power for the third time in December 2018. Gehlot has taken numerous decisions to touch every section of society through various schemes and programmes,” the leader said. State Sports Minister Ashok Chandna said the governments schemes and programmes will be prominently highlighted on the sidelines of the games. It will be first time in the history of games that nearly 30 lakh people will be participating, he said. When asked about its political benefit, Chandna said, “Time will tell this but the response from the public is really very huge. When good work is done, it certainly makes a positive impact.” Party sources say through these games, more than 1 crore people will be directly and indirectly touched. The other decision with which he has tried to set a narrative is the old pension scheme for state government employees. He announced to revive the scheme in the state budget.
Nearly 3 lakh employees appointed on or after 1 January 2004 and their family members have been touched through this. At the same time, Gehlot focused on the health sector and rolled out the Chiranjeevi Health Insurance scheme last year to provide a health cover of Rs 5 lakh, which was increased to Rs 10 lakh this year.
“During the previous tenure, Gehlot had launched free medicine schemes which had benefited people on a large scale but the party faced debacle because of the Modi wave. This time, the CM has been highly focused on the health sector and the party will surely get its political mileage,” party sources said. “Many schemes have been announced by Gehlot in this years budget which will certainly make the ground for the party to make a comeback in 2023. Every single section of society has been benefited by Gehlot, be it farmers, youths, women, men, destitute, elderly, traders and businessmen,” another leader said. He said because of the subsidy of Rs 1,000 per month starting from May last year, electricity bills of lakhs of farmers have become zero, proving to be a major support to small and marginal farmers in rural areas. At the same time, Gehlot has been relentlessly attacking the BJP and the RSS on a range of issues in order to balance the Modi factor in the state. Simultaneously, the Congress leader has tried to set a narrative for the next elections around the Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project, which will address drinking and irrigation water requirements of 13 districts. The project was conceptualised by the BJP government led by Vasundhara Raje and Gehlot has been repeatedly demanding from the Centre to declare it a national initiative so that it could be completed on time.
Gehlot has asked party leaders and workers in eastern parts of the state to create a movement on the issue, saying PM Narendra Modi had promised to give it the status of a national project in election rallies in 2018 but failed to fulfil the promise. “If all schemes, initiatives and actions are put together, his roadmap for retaining power in the next elections will be visible. Despite challenges faced within the party and threats to the stability of the government, Gehlots third term as the chief minister has focused on pro-people initiatives,” a party MLA said.
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