Colonel Sona Ram Choudhary first entered the parliament in the 11th Lok Sabha as a Congress MP from Barmer in Rajasthan. Having been a Congress MP thrice, he switched sides in 2014 and was offered the BJP ticket in 2014 and entered the Lok Sabha for the fourth time from Barmer. As the BJP faces an uphill battle in the assembly elections in Rajasthan. Contesting for the Barmer assembly constituency this time, he spoke to Business Standard during the course of his campaign. Edited excerpts:
Q: How different is it contesting national elections for Congress and the very next assembly election for BJP?
Sona Ram Choudhary: This time it is even more difficult and tricky and requires greater personal touch than it did before. In a broader sense, local elections are always more difficult than national ones. A lot more people are there with their own needs which need to be fulfilled. One big advantage being with the BJP is that it is doing so well and is in power in so many states in India. PM Modi has a wonderful record and has launched many social sector schemes that are benefiting the people. The same is the case with Vasundhara Raje. People vote for the party which is doing good because that is good for the state and for the nation.
Q: Do you agree with Amit Shah’s assertion that Vasundhara Raje did a good job but failed to publicise her work?
Sona Ram Choudhary: I am not aware of such a statement. But then it does happen sometimes. This is the job of the workers. It is their responsibility to go door to door and village to village campaigns and tell people about all the work done by the government and all the schemes launched for their welfare.
Q: Given the fact that incumbents are voted out in Rajasthan, is there a lot of pressure on you in your pocket borough Barmer?
Sona Ram Choudhary: I have been given a ticket for two reasons. Firstly, I will win if I contest. Secondly, my candidature will benefit the BJP not just in Barmer but also in adjoining areas of Jodhpur because I am a senior and respected leader of farmers here. I was told by the party that they knew I will win, but I should help other candidates win as well.
Q: You have given up your parliamentary seat for an assembly election. What about 2019?
Sona Ram Choudhary: We will cross the bridge once we get there. My priority is to ensure that I and my colleagues who are contesting should win these elections. Whatever the BJP high command instructs, I will follow that.
Q: In 2014, PM Modi had promised to bring Narmada water to Barmer. But nothing has come here
Sona Ram Choudhary: In the run-up to 2014 there were proposals to increase the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam. But some activists were creating problems. After he became PM, the height of the dam has been increased to 52 feet. This means more water will be stored in the dam’s reservoir. With storage increasing, he will now be in a position to provide Narmada water to Barmer. With time, there will definitely be more water for Barmer and Jaisalmer.
Q: How do you see Rahul Gandhi’s invocation of Hindu tenets like gotra and gaushalas affecting the BJP’s chances?
Sona Ram Choudhary: I feel sorry for him sometimes. He is bringing Modi’s father and mother into these elections. Now he is discovering his own gotra. These kinds of petty statements are not expected from a leader of his stature. He should maintain some dignity and not hit below the belt.