I'm no sacrificial lamb: Rajasthan BJP chief Madan Lal Saini (IANS Interview)

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Jaipur : He is a farmer who comes from a very simple background; he loves ploughing his fields and has been travelling by a state roadways bus from Jaipur to Sikar, his hometown. In Sikar, he wakes up at 4 a.m. to finish his household chores, like washing clothes, on his own.

When this humble man was picked as the Rajasthan Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief on June 30, it literally sent shock waves in the state as there were several prominent names in the fray. However, BJP president Amit Shah finally picked Madan Lal Saini.

Soon after his appointment, there were whispers that Saini was being made a fall guy by the BJP sensing defeat in the assembly elections later this year. Even Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot commented that Saini has been made a "sacrificial lamb" and was given a task which no one was willing to take up in the face of what many term as imminent defeat.

However, unaffected by all such claims, Saini, told IANS in an interview: "I am not here to become a sacrificial lamb. I am here to wipe out the opposition. In fact, time shall prove who has become a sacrificial lamb in the coming elections."

The BJP had appeared more like a headless party for over two months after its president Ashok Parnami resigned on April 16.

Between April 16 and June 30, the names of proposed candidates were being exchanged between leaders in Delhi and Jaipur. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje visited Delhi frequently to select the right candidate for the coveted post.

Meanwhile, with Saini's appointment, things seem to be stablising as he has swung into action sensing the criticality of his position. He is busy forming his own team, strategising and charting a way forward for the BJP.

Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his recent visit to Jaipur, had words of praise for Saini.

"I have worked with Madan Lal Saini-ji. I have also done many organisational tours with him," he said, adding that Saini had tremendous knowledge of organisational matters.

On his part, Saini said: "Modiji took me back to the days when I was rendering my services to BJP's Kisaan Morcha as national general secretary. At that time, Modiji was BJP's national general secretary. We both shared the same headquarters in the same building; Modiji also shared a Sangh background and so did I. As we had the same association's backing, ideology and thoughts... we often used to meet during tea time."

"Thereafter, I became the Rajasthan in-charge for the Sardar Patel Sangrahan Samiti and Modiji was Gujarat Chief Minister in those days. He often used to discuss the progress of pending tasks with me. At that time, neither did I think of him becoming the Prime Minister nor did I dream of becoming the party president of Rajasthan," Saini said.

"But then, this is how our party works; we promote our grassroots leaders to reach the top if they work with sincerity, honesty and dedication," he added.

Interestingly, during Modi's visit in Jaipur on July 7, Saini was standing a little behind the other leaders. Observing this, Modi indicated to him to take step forward and shook hands with him.

Saini said he was confident of attaining the 180-plus target set by the BJP in the coming elections to the 200-member house, in which it currently has 160 seats. Reminded of the recent losses during bypolls in Alwar, Ajmer and Mandalgarh, he retorted: "Have you seen a tiger? Before attacking his prey, he takes two steps back and then takes a leap forward. So is the case with the BJP. We went two steps back only to invigorate ourselves to take a big leap and wipe out the opposition."

Speaking about the infighting in the BJP cadre on caste lines, he said this was also true of the opposition Congress, with three chief ministerial candidates -- Ashok Gehlot, Sachin Pilot and C.P. Joshi -- in the fray.

"They are busy portraying themselves as CM candidates. We have resolved all our crises," Saini added.

Asked about party workers' claims that Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje still had an attitude and portrays herself as a queen, Saini countered: "I have seen Vasundhara-ji visiting rural areas to redress the grievances of people. Had she been a queen, she could have assigned the task to any of her party members. But she herself is taking the lead, which is the task of the leader."

On the lynching cases in Alwar and Bharatpur, he said people should learn to respect the religious sentiments of different communities. "This is the only way we can retain communal harmony in the nation."

"In fact, we should work to ensure our country has a strong presence on the global map. As we discuss America's viewpoint on significant developments of the world, we want the world to discuss India's viewpoint on crucial subjects in the coming days and the party is working to accomplish this aim," Saini said.

(Archana Sharma can be contacted at archana.s@ians.in)