By Ram Kumar Kaushik
Those who claim that they can predict Ashok Gehlot's move are running for cover. Pulling out ace from his sleeve he not only stunned the opposition BJP but left his own party members in disbelief when he announced to carve out 19 more districts in the state to take the total count of districts to 50.
With this, Rajasthan will become the state with third highest districts after Uttar Pradesh (71) and Madhya Pradesh (53).
He also divided two of its important districts – Jaipur in four parts and Jodhpur in three parts. Gehlot announced a budget of Rs 2000 crore for these newly created districts affirming his commitment towards the smooth governance in the new administrative setup.
Barely a week back, Gehlot had extended the tenure of the high-power committee under retired IAS officer Ram Lubhaya that is tasked with suggesting new districts by six months. That move foxed MLAs and political leaders who were clamouring for creation of new districts under their constituencies. Most of them were convinced that an announcement of new districts will just be a poll gimmick near elections. But announcing new districts well ahead of elections will enable Gehlot to take the poll advantage. With this masterstroke Gehlot not only balanced out political equations but also gifted his loyalists with districts in their respective constituencies. Gehlot announced to create Kekri (Raghu Sharma), Dudu (Babu Lal Nagar), Neem Ka Thana (Suresh Modi), Gangapur city (Ramkesh Meena), Kotputli-Behror ( Rajendra Yadav) and Sanchore (Sukhram Vishnoi). The creation of Balotara district from Barmer will fulfil the demand of Congress MLA Madan Prajapat who has been walking on barefoot for last one year in support of his demand. However, Gehlot ignored demand of his own cabinet colleague Rajendra Gudha who was fighting for making his constituency Udaipurvati as district. Gudha, perhaps has paid the price for being a visible sympathiser of Sachin Pilot.
The creation of Pali, Sikar and Banswara as divisional headquarters will also give Gehlot political mileage, especially Banswara where Congress has a tough fight with emerging Bharatiya Tribal Party (BTP) for tribal votes.
The Ram mandir issue was one of the most important factor for repetition of Yogi government in Uttar Pradesh. Gehlot knows it well. He made major announcements on development and renovation Hindu temples pilgrimage in the state. He budgeted Rs 100 crore for developing the deity of Jaipur – Govind Devji temple on the lines of Mahakal temple in Ujjain, which was recently developed at the cost of Rs 350 crore.
The chief minister also announced redevelopment of Beneshwar Dham at the cost of Rs 100 crore besides the renovation of other important temples like Khatu Shyamji, Kaila Devi, Khole Ke Hanuman ji, Veer Tejaji temple and Sanwaliya Seth. The government will also set up Pushkar Development Authority to develop Teerthraj Pushkar.
For last few years, the voting percentage of women has improved across the country indicating growing political awareness among the half population. As per the latest numbers from election commission, the women population in Rajasthan has gone up by 2.52% to become 2.46 crore. Gehlot announced to distribute smart phones to 40 lakh women in the first phase on Raksha Bandhan under the Mukhyamantri Digital Seva Yojana. This scheme was announced in the 2022 budget but could not be implemented due to rising global prices of chip used in manufacturing smart phones.
Gehlot has already lined up a large number women oriented schemes in this budget. He has increased the women concession in government run buses from 30% to 50% besides free travel for school girls in roadways buses till the distance of 75 kms. He has also announced to distribute 30,000 electric scooties to girls under Kali Bai Bheel Scheme.
The chief minister said that roads, bridges and railway over bridges (RoBs) etc will be constructed and upgrading work worth Rs 2500 crore will be done in various areas of the state. Domestic electricity connection will be provided at a cost of Rs 1000 crore to 2 lakh families who were deprived of domestic electricity connection with the ending of Centre's Soubhagya Yojana. Water connection to every home will be provided with a cost of Rs 4674 crore to 3 lakh families of 1473 villages and 8 towns of Udaipur, Pratapgarh, Chittorgarh and Rajsamand districts under Jal Jeevan Mission. Revenue villages with a population of 250 and more in tribal and desert areas of the state will be connected with tar roads in a phased manner.
The BuckStopper, run by a group of seasoned journalists, holds the powerful accountable. The buck stops with them, as they cannot shrug off their official responsibilities.