Rajasthan BJP leader Vasudev Devnani: ‘Teaching Akbar won’t inculcate patriotic spirit in students, teaching them Maharana Pratap will boost it.’

Former Rajasthan education minister Vasudev Devnani, the BJP MLA from Ajmer North, has been appointed as the convener of the party’s “Modi @ 20” programme in the state. He speaks to The Indian Express on this campaign, among a range of issues including the school syllabus and teaching of students. Excerpts:

What is “Modi @ 20” and what are the events planned for it in Rajasthan?

“Modi @ 20” highlights the welfare policies under PM Modi’s 20 years – over 12 years as a CM and 8 years as the PM. The manner in which Mahatma Gandhi made Independence a people’s campaign, Modi ji too has tried to make development a people’s campaign. He started his life as a tea seller and hence he knows the issues of the common man and so he is able to work better towards their upliftment. In Rajasthan, we are organising events between August 1 – 31, wherein we will get speakers, including intellectuals, teachers, etc. from the state and outside to address public programmes.

But the Opposition keeps pointing out that India has fallen on various indices, be it Global Hunger Index, Press Freedom Index, Environmental Performance Index, etc. under the Modi government.

The indices of the world may have different criteria, but if you see within the country, for example, he (PM Modi) took measures for welfare of women leading to decrease in women harassment by 22 per cent and rape by 14 per cent, because we created toilets in every home. He implemented schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana which ensured that unlike the time of Rajiv Gandhi, the entire rupee went into the beneficiary’s account.

The country performed well on the same indices earlier. So what has changed?

I don’t believe that it (the country’s rank) is falling. And be it economy or social freedom, the rank under various subjects has actually risen. Who decides the criteria for these indices? Within the country, poverty has declined. Second, a country is examined on multiple factors – what is its position in the world, how it deals with a calamity, how its economy is functioning and how much benefits are reaching the poorest persons. For example, all the villages are now electrified, homes have toilets, crores of cylinders have been given under Ujjwala Yojana, drinking water is being provided through Jal Jeevan Mission, loans are being given under MUDRA Yojana – all of these have improved the lives of the poor, but the (ranking) agencies can’t reach them. Also, he (Modi) has rallied the world against terrorism and isolated Pakistan. Britain, America, Germany or Japan, sab ko uske khilaf khada kiya (all have been rallied against Pakistan).

What do you think are the biggest achievements and failures of the Congress-led Rajasthan government?

The sole achievement of the CM (Ashok Gehlot) is that he is still in power. And the biggest failure is law and order. Every day, when you read the newspapers, you read about corruption, crimes against women, or an ACB (Anti-Corruption Bureau) raid, and when it comes to the economy, Rajasthan is among 3-4 states which have the highest debt. Every ruling party MLA is free and thinks he is the CM. His own party people, such as (Sangod) MLA Bharat Singh ji, keep levelling allegations against the government.

CM keeps charging that there is fascism under the BJP rule at the Centre and there is an “undeclared Emergency” in the country.

The CM is not vocal about the people or their issues. He only focuses on criticising the Central government, the BJP and Modi ji. You are saying that the freedom to speak (has been curtailed), you yourself are speaking so much – what Emergency is there? During Indira ji’s Emergency you could be jailed for saying “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, but today the press is free, and can freely air its views.

Gehlot also alleges misuse of central agencies such as the CBI, ED, IT, etc.

It is only to protect Sonia Gandhi and Rahul. Is questioning not constitutional? And now the Supreme Court has also upheld ED’s powers for interrogation, arrest, etc. And when you question the SC judgment, it means you only want the security of one family. Today they are only being questioned – why do you fear it? You keep repeating that there is a Constitution in India. The Constitution is most secure under Modi ji today.

Rajasthan used to be a relatively peaceful state, but we’ve seen a rise in violence in the past few years. What has changed?

It is because of the state government’s policy of appeasement. If you rise above appeasement, then we can be safe from these things. You should take action against a criminal irrespective of their caste, creed, but you won’t do that and try to make them happy. You allowed PFI to hold a rally in Kota, while in other places, you stopped others from taking out rallies. So when you divide the communities, their morale will decline and lead to these incidents.

CM Gehlot keeps appealing to PM Modi to address the nation and ask for peace.

But when does he (Gehlot) himself listen to the PM’s words? He should himself appeal to the state. Law and order is the subject of the state. Uttar Pradesh CM doesn’t say that the PM should appeal. He keeps sending the ball to the PM’s court to avoid his responsibilities. And the PM speaks to people through “Mann ki Baat” every month, and speaks on national issues. And bar 2-3 states, there is peace in the states.

The school syllabus changes every five years in Rajasthan, with a change in government. Will this stop if there is a BJP government?

The Congress has made more changes. Why do we want to educate kids? If you look at the fundamentals, it is to ensure that they become a good citizen, a patriot, so that they can connect with the Indian culture. But if you are only going to teach about Gandhi family and give them respect, then where did the remaining brave-hearts and freedom fighters go? And Ashok Gehlot said that those who have struggled (ragdayi), only they will be given importance in the party. So in the Gandhi family, kiski ragdayi hui hai (who has struggled)?

They used to give importance to invaders. Till now they kept teaching “Akbar the great”. I thought this is not reality and it will not lead to a patriotic spirit among them (students). But if you teach “Maharana Pratap the great”, this will automatically raise their patriotic spirit.

If BJP forms a government next year, what are the big plans that you have for the government?

It is the party which decides. But some things are clear. One is improving law and order, next is growing economy, and currently Rajasthan is among states with highest unemployment rate…We will implement Modi ji’s policies to help the state come out of it.

How much do you think factionalism will affect BJP’s prospects in the 2023 Assembly polls?

Currently, Modi ji is our leader in the nation. So we will all fight the elections in a united manner under Modi ji. And people know about the “double engine” government.

It is Congress that is ridden with internal and administrative issues. Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot keep getting back at each other through public comments. Second, their organisation is in tatters, they haven’t been able to complete appointments in districts. The disenchantment with Congress can be gauged from the fact that out of their target to enrol 50 lakh members in the state, they could enrol only 15 lakh, that too after multiple extensions. And even in 2018, they somehow managed to get elected with the help of BSP MLAs and others, not on their own strength.

Who would you want to see as the CM?

The party will decide it.

BJP is known to remember its dedicated workers, be it Madan Lal Saini or recently, Ghanshyam Tiwari. How do you see your chances as the CM?

It is the prerogative of the national leadership, which knows everyone. Whatever responsibility it gives to anyone, we will support that, because our aim is never to gain a post. We are simply the party cadre and we do whatever responsibilities are assigned to us with all our honesty and capacity. I was working as a teacher and I could never even dream that I would become an MLA. Even Droupadi ji would not have thought that she would become the President one day.

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