‘You don’t have to be in uniform to soldier for the nation’

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Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore: Olympian & Shooter
Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore

What made you decide to take to politics? 

It’s not a sudden impromptu decision. Over a period of time you feel that the systems are not working, you feel the pain of being a citizen of this country and yet, not being able to do something. I’ve always believed in myself which is why I went from a career in the military to sports and now politics. Perhaps it is the way we are brought up, the culture: country comes first.

How big a change is it for your family to go from an army background into the political world?
Knowing my drive and passion for standing up for my country they agreed, but it is certainly a change. My son who is just 14 came to know of my decision just a couple of days ago, we hadn’t discussed this with him. When he did come to know, he was in Peru (still is) shooting in the World Championships. In his own innocence he told my wife, “Papa is joining politics; please tell him to be a clean politician.” Obviously there are very high standards I have to live by, my own and my family’s.

What are the issues you feel strongly about, that you hope to change in your political career?
Efficiency in implementation of policies, that’s first and foremost. Every policy you look at is poorly implemented and the lack of it lies in the intent of the people responsible for it. Thereafter there is a need to look at the policies themselves. These two things cover the spectrum of our democratic life. We always say so and so achievements were made despite the system; it’s everywhere, not just in sports.

What compelled you to leave both, the army by taking voluntary retirement and by extension shooting, for politics?
Anything you do in life is because of passion and emotional appeal. When I joined the armed forces or took to shooting, it was because of an emotional appeal. At the time when no one had won an Olympic medal for a long time, I got in and people said you’re crazy to get into this and I had this strong appeal that I must do this. Because everyone said it cannot be done, it inspired me even more. I feel the same drive now.

What is the emotional appeal you found in politics?
There’s no one incident. I used to think about why we are sliding down in every sphere in our life in this country. We need some people to either get in and make a difference or join in with people who are making a difference, you have to soldier for it. You don’t have to be in uniform to soldier for the nation.

Why did you choose to enter the BJP?
For a number of years we’ve been governed by a certain political party and today’s situation is because of a certain type of governance. Therefore, you look at alternatives and want to strengthen the alternative which gives you hope. Undoubtedly, there is a great sense of hope in the youth today because of Narendra Modi, the way he has developed Gujarat. Despite the governance using all their means and resources trying to pin him down, they don’t have any scam on him.

Does it help that your first big appearance came at an ex-servicemen’s rally at Rewari?
Yes, it was certainly a proud moment for me that for the first time an ex-servicemen rally of such a huge gathering was called by a person of no less the stature than the PM nominee. I feel hopeful and proud that I’m part of this outfit.

Your entry comes at a time when various politicians in the recent past and most recently, the Aligarh District Magistrate Rajeev Rautela, say things like “It is the duty of soldiers to lay down their lives on the war front.” How do you view this?
Unfortunately in our democratic process, we have come to such points of political discourse that not only do some opponents come up with an opposition to everything but they also want to trivialise and be derogatory in certain aspects. It hurts even more when a soldier hears this comment on television or reads it in the newspaper when he is serving in a hostile environment; it can be very detrimental to his mind-set. There is a sense of high pride that because I am here, the country is safe. You forget your personal safety just because of this heightened sense of self-righteousness that you’re the good, fighting the evil. Perhaps this is why the Rewari rally was attended in such large numbers not just be generals but by soldiers.

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