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Rediff.com  » News » 'I didn't want to spend the rest of my life as Om Birla's slave'

'I didn't want to spend the rest of my life as Om Birla's slave'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
April 02, 2024 10:44 IST
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'The people of Kota will show Om Birla his place.'

IMAGE: Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, right, at the Central Hall of Parliament. Photograph: ANI Photo
 

Two-time ex-Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Prahlad Gunjal, a close confidante of former chief minister Vasundhara Raje, has quit the BJP and joined the Congress which has now pitted him against Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, who is vying for a hat-trick from Kota.

A Gujjar strongman, who won twice on the BJP ticket -- in 2003 from Ramganj Mandi in Kota and in 2013 from Kota North, Gunjal says the BJP today has become a one-person cult party and it has compromised its once lofty ideals at the altar of power and money.

"RSS parivar, BJP parivar has become secondary to Modi ka parivar. I feel utterly aghast when I see seasoned and senior politicians like Nitin Gadkariji and Rajnath Singhji -- like newbies on social media -- compete with each other to add 'Modi ka parivar' in their display profiles pictures. Where are you planning to take such a grand, proud, party with this one-person cult?," asks Gunjal of the growing sycophancy sweeping the BJP under the reign of Narendra Damodardas Modi.

However, like a street-smart politician Gunjal is quick to defend the Congress's sycophancy.

"Unlike Modi, Rahul Gandhi is such a humble person. He and the Gandhis have earned the respect of the people of this country through their sacrifices, hard work and love for the poor and the backwards. They work for the upliftment of the entire Indian society, not of few individuals," Gunjal tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com.

Despite being a two-time BJP MLA you have now quit the party and joined the Congress which has now pitted you against Om Birla of the BJP. What made you quit the BJP?

When I entered politics and joined the BJP the underlying principle that every person in the party followed, and in which we all believed, was that the party is bigger than an individual, society is bigger than the party, State is bigger than society and the country is above all.

All these valued principles and traditions have been destroyed in the party (BJP) and today an individual has become greater than the nation.

As an individual, Om Birlaji, is having an absolute control of the (Rajasthan unit of the) party (BJP) and only those who circumambulate around him and stoop at his feet will survive politically in the BJP.

For a fiercely independent party loyalist like me, with the highest esteem for the self, it was unbearable for me to see that the ordinary worker had to act like a slave of Om Birla, his brothers and his family.

I didn't want to spend the rest of my life as Om Birla's slave.

Main sirf bhagwan ki parikrama karne main vishwas rakhta hu (I believe in circumambulating only around the god). Main sirf Janata ki ghulami kart ahu, kisi neta ki nahi kar sakta (I can work as the slave of my people, but can't accept enslavement of a political leader).

I also highlighted this before the senior BJP leadership in Rajasthan as well as to the chief minister (Bhajan Lal Sharma). Par jab kuyen main hi bhang ghul gayi toh mujhe bahar nikalna hi tha thokar maar ke (But since the entire well became intoxicated -- with Om Birla's influence -- I was left with no other choice but to quit the party).

What made you feel that you will have to spend the rest of your life as Om Birla's slave? Could you cite any instances?

In which book is it written that if Prahlad Gunjal aspires for a Vidhan Sabha ticket, then he has to first pay his obeisance at Om Birla's home, touch his forehead at his doorsteps?

The office bearers of the party who were instigated against Prahlad Gunjal in 2018 and 2023 (Gunjal lost both the elections to the Congress's Shanti Dhariwal from the Kota North assembly segment; he won from this constituency as a BJP candidate in 2013; he was a BJP MLA from Ramganj Mandi in Kota in 2003) are again being goaded by the same man to work against me. I was being treated like an enemy in the BJP.

Maine mukhya mantri ko avgat karaya par jab kaan main ju nahi rengi to main apna atma-samman girvi nahi rakh sakta bhai (I informed Chief Minister Bhajan Lal Sharma how Om Birla was trying to destroy my image in the party but when everybody ignored my pleas then I am not someone who happily pawns his self-respect for political gains).

I have not become a politician to capture power at the cost of humiliating myself. I always pray to god to give me a death before dishonour.

IMAGE: Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with party leaders Rahul Gandhi and K C Venugopal during the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Aurangabad district, February 15, 2024. Photograph:ANI Photo

You quit the BJP because the party has now become individual centric and has compromised on ideals like country being above an individual and party.
But isn't the Congress also a party that believes in supremacy of one leader, who currently happens to be Rahul Gandhi?

When I joined the BJP I believed that the Sangh (the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh) was my family; the BJP was my family. Today, everybody has forgotten these ideals and are bootlicking one man by calling themselves 'Modi ka parivar' (We are Modi's family, a slogan that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made popular on social media to gain political mileage from his immense popularity; many senior BJP leaders have added 'Modi ka parivar' on their DPs).

But isn't the Congress also synonymous with the Gandhi family? Why did you choose the Congress which also betrays similar sycophantic traits when it comes to the Gandhis?

RSS parivar, BJP parivar has become secondary to Modi ka parivar. I feel utterly aghast when I see seasoned and senior politicians like Nitin Gadkariji and Rajnath Singhji -- like newbies on social media -- compete with each other to add 'Modi ka parivar' in their display profiles pictures.

Where are you planning to take such a grand, proud party with this one-person cult?

To answer your question why I chose the Congress I did not have any other choice. If you have to fight the BJP in Rajasthan then the Congress is the only option.

But you quit the BJP because becoming Om Birla's slave was not acceptable to you and the BJP has become a one-person cult, then how different is the Congress when it comes to worshipping the Gandhis? Wouldn't similar traits suffocate you in the Congress?

Congress Gandhi ka parivar Delhi ke level pe ho sakti hai (the Congress can be Gandhi ka parivar at the central level in Delhi) but here in Rajasthan, at the grassroots, the Congress offers huge scope to ordinary workers to prove their mettle and work for the people of the state.

Unlike Modi, Rahul Gandhi is such a humble person. He and the Gandhis have earned the respect of the people of this country through their sacrifices, hard work and love for the poor and the backwards. They work for the upliftment of the entire Indian society, not of few individuals.

The Congress is not anybody's personal fiefdom in Rajasthan. Whoever works hard is appreciated by the Congress leadership and gets an opportunity to progress.

What made you think of the Congress in such high esteem in 2024? Didn't these qualities attract you to the Congress in 2018 and 2023?

When I was in the BJP I have had political tiffs with Om Birla since 1993. Till the time I felt nobody was taking away my self-respect, my honour, I continued to remain with the BJP.

The day I realised that these people were systemically destroying my atma-samman (self-esteem) I decided to quit the party. I was left with no other choice.

Despite his fantastic PR and liaison tricks in Jaipur and Delhi, Om Birla has not been able to earn the respect of people of Rajasthan like I have done.

Aren't they sweating now, fearing me as an opponent to Om Birla from the Kota Lok Sabha constituency, even otherwise trying to put me down by saying that I am someone who has lost two successive elections to the Congress?

Come to Rajasthan and ask anybody who's going to win the Kota seat. Om Birla is confident he is losing from Kota. The people of Kota will show him his place.

It is being reported that the BJP is today the richest party in the world, that it has almost Rs 8,500 crore in its kitty from just electoral bonds.
The Congress today is a party whose bank accounts have been frozen by the income tax department and exclaiming that it has almost become bankrupt and doesn't have the money to fund its election campaign.
Yet you joined the Congress. Do you think you will get enough funds to fight the Lok Sabha election from Kota against Om Birla whose party has billions of rupees in its treasury?

Those who lack the moral courage to fight such battles are swept away by the rising tide. They don't have the spirit to swim against the tide and achieve their aims. They are like the dead fish which can't swim against the tide.

Dead people can't swim against the tide, but those who are morally and spiritually alive have the courage as well as the capacity to swim against the tide.

Prahlad Gunjal abhi mann se mara nahi hai, zinda hai (Prahlad Gunjal's spirit is not dead; he is still alive).

How do you plan to fund your election?

We have the strength of our workers. We will fight on people's strength. They may have money power, but people's power is with us in this election.

The people of India know how cheap the BJP is acting by freezing the accounts of India's largest Opposition party. They know deep within, a fear has gripped them, that they are losing this election badly.

In their desperate attempts, like those drowning clutching at the straws, they are using all the tactics to strangle the Congress. Let them do whatever they want to, but we have the support of the people of this country.

Om Birla is the sitting Lok Sabha MP from Kota. How do you plan to take him on? What are you telling the voters of Kota? Why will they vote for you?

Prahlad Gunjal 24 x 7 logon ke liye faqeeri karta hai (Prahlad Gunjal works for the welfare of the people 24 x 7). The people of my constituency know that I live and die for the welfare of common people.

I have already started my campaign by foot; I plan to reach out to each and every voter in my constituency and appeal to them to give the Congress one note and one vote. I appeal to the people not just for votes but also for funding our election campaign.

My voters know my character.

What message do you have for the BJP?

I want to tell the BJP that internal democracy is dead in the party. It is alive only in the BJP's propaganda. The party is busy favouring nexus and groupism. Ideals and principles have been compromised at the altar of money and power.

I have never played with people's trust; Birlaji has been playing with people's faith for the last ten years and 2024 will show him where he belongs.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
 
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