I Did It My Way: In Conversation with GAJENDRA SINGH KHIMSAR on His Bedazzling Political Innings
Striding past Rajasthan’s Vidhan Sabha corridors with his invigorating and jovial persona, he has earned his veteran status in the field through much blood, sweat and tears of humility and gratitude. An esteemed members of Raje-led BJP government of Rajasthan, he counts amongst Rajasthan’s leading visionaries and perpetrators of social change at levels spanning from superlative to grass-root levels. His inborn qualities of ingenuity, simplicity and an unparalleled loyalty towards his people fuelled a notable journey that the politician recounts in hindsight. On his 60th birth anniversary, Rajputana Collective takes the prized privilege of highlighting the bedazzling political innings of Gajendra Singh of Khimsar, in his own words.
RC: Your political journey and legacy thus far needs no introduction. But could you begin by describing what it was that made you switch from hoteliering to join politics in the first place?
GSK: I have never been a specialist in any field. After having graduated from Canada, I returned home to pursue modern farming without any formal degree or training in that field. I subsequently became a hotelier without any prior education vis-a-vis hospitality studies. And finally, my initiation into the field of politics, too, lacked a history of student politics or a political science degree. I found myself juggling with three different balls, namely, modern farming, hospitality and politics, all at the same time!
The constant presence of leadership traits amongst my ancestors has continued over eighteen generations of rulership over Khimsar. Thereafter, my grand father won the first assembly elections that took place post-independence in our area; and my father exercised the portfolio of a deputy minister during the Congress regime in Rajasthan. A similar urge was always there to gain a political opportunity to serve my people, as my forefathers did. Hence, I would attribute my switch from hoteliering to politics to this particular urge.
RC: What, would you enlist as the most important virtue(s) to have in order to be a successful politician?
GSK: Humility, flexibility, positivity, dynamism, patience, politeness, practicality and sincerity. If you have a majority of these qualities then you have the potential of playing a long political innings. Getting elected 7 re-elected is an uphill task. But once you’re in the seat of power, fulfilling you responsibilities efficiently is a different ballgame altogether. Having the competence and abilities to deliver the goods effectively to the public is of paramount importance to a successful politician.
RC: In your varied political ascend, if there is one thing/ event that you could go back and change/ do differently, what would that be?
GSK: Venturing out into a bigger and different arena. Had I fought the last Parliament election instead of the Vidhan Sabha elections, the opportunities would have allowed me a whiff of the Lok Sabha.
RC: What has been your most memorable moment as a politician thus-far and why?
GSK: My first victory in the Vidhan Sabha Elections, which I contested from Nagaur in 2003. The mass exodus of supporters that followed in the form of a procession through the historical city of Nagaur with the streets jammed with people, the cheering, the firecrackers and women-supporters rejoicing my political ascends on the rooftops of their homes, showering flowers at me. The immense love from the masses instilled made me highly emotional to the extent that I had tears rolling down my face out of gratitude. With a leader born inside of me, I felt blessed. There was no looking back ever since.
RC: Briefly discuss the most a) challenging and b) gratifying parts about being a politician.
GSK: a) You serve as a puppet of the political mandate whereby you are a living objectification of every vote that has been cast in your favour. Achieving the numbers game and trying to maintain your popularity by striving to keep your voters satisfied is an extremely difficult task.The overall expectations are impossible to fulfil, as is striking a balance between the right and a wrong. But then, there is a God! I am a firm follower of Lord Krishna’s advice to Arjun in the Mahabharata: “Tum achhe kaam kiye jaao. Parinaam mere upar chhor do!” (You continue to perform virtuous actions, and leave their outcome to me; b) Seeing your development schemes bear fruits. In receiving thankfulness and gratitude from the people whenever their work is done.
RC: The electoral trend of Rajasthan runs classically on the bi-party model. What are some of its merits and demerits? How would you advocate the state and citizens to make the most of this electoral trend?
GSK: Speaking of its merits, the two-party system eliminates the mess and unreliability of a coalition government; and horse-trading and corruption practices that are solely aimed to capture power. A demerit of this system would be the risks that it entails vis-a-vis an authoritarian government.
RC: Amongst all the portfolios that you have held thus-far, which has been the most challenging and which has been your favourite?
GSK: The energy ministry was the most challenging in that it was mass interfacing with the consumer, which was a massive figure. On the one hand, you had critical departmental reforms like providing cheap and abundant electricity to all while minimising electrical theft (50% of electrical supplies were stolen). On the other hand, you had people demanding populist measures which were counter-productive to the department’s efficiency. This balance was very challenging to maintain. In comparison, forest and sports portfolios are very enjoyable to pursue, especially since I am passionate about both. Plants, birds and animals are amongst my foremost interests and sports of course has been a passion since birth.
RC: Is there any portfolio that you haven’t held yet that is your ‘dream portfolio’?
Not exactly. Forests, tourism and sports collectively form my dream portfolios. I have a flair and instinct for them. Tourism and sports come to me as natural fortes whereas nature stimulates my passion. I held two out of these three portfolios, which isn’t bad. There is a saying, “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Hence, I regret nothing.
RC: The sustained participation of Rajputs in the field of politics is well-known in a country like ours. Based on your personal experience, what are some of the political head-starts that Rajputs inherit in the domain of politics? On the other hand, what are some of the setbacks?
Nobody teaches a newborn fish to swim. Every Rajput possesses the art of governing in their DNA. Our ancestors have ruled since time immemorial, and more than anything, most rulers governed fairly. To grant justice to one and all has been our forte and in the realm of Indian politics, a sizeable number of Rajputs are known to have make their mark, serving as great leaders over a sustained period of time. On the other hand, many community persons failed to adjust with changing times. The other side of caste-based reservations and democratic changes are examples example of these setbacks. Quite a few Rajputs were impractical and not in terms with reality, hence sufficing as the losers.
RC: Who serves as your political inspiration and why?
GSK: Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, an all time great leader. A great orator and statesman, he was honest, noble, respectable and highly trustworthy.
RC: Referring to contemporary politics, who would you identify as the manifestation of an ideal politician and why?
ASK: Shri Narendra Modi. He has transformed Indian politics. I believe that “to err is human” and one learns from their mistakes. His intentions towards his motherland are very sound. Modi ji is an honest and hardworking leader who is devoted to his nation with a great vision for a developing India. He is the biggest hope that India has in present times.
RC: What is your ultimate political aim and vision?
GSK: I feel I have fulfilled my mission- I have put my constituency on the map as one of the fastest developing areas of Rajasthan. I believe I have repaid my debt to my people. Elective politics is very exhaustive and the level and mentality of politicians is plummeting. I have achieved more than I had ever asked out of God and went far beyond my expectations. I have successfully made my mark without indulging in any controversies whatsoever. It is time to move on, “let the good times roll!”