He is not the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh any more, but his popularity has not waned. Every morning, people line up at Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s 74 Bungalows residence to appeal for some help. He meets them, listens to them and zips off to his next public meeting. This is one among other political engagements that he needs to keep in different parts of the state as well as outside it. The forthcoming Lok Sabha elections have made him extremely busy.
After BJP president Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chouhan is one of the most sought-after leaders in the on-going election campaigning. He is among the few party leaders who has been given a chopper and a small aircraft to fly around in for his campaign. Since he is hardly seen in Bhopal, catching up with him for a chat was quite a task. The best option was to travel with him while he was on the campaign trail and understand his views and thoughts on many issues.
Looking at your mass appeal, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was keen that you should contest from Bhopal against Digvijaya Singh of Congress. Why did you choose to decline?
I have an emotional connect with the 7.5 crore people and have been chief minister for three terms. Now, it is the time to stand with the people of the state. Within four months of the new chief minister assuming office, people have been struggling and facing innumerable problems. My governments’ public welfare schemes for the poor and for the farmers have been scrapped and the youth feel cheated. At the same time, the government is battling massive corruption charges. I think it is time to take to the streets, stand with our people and boost the morale of our party workers. It is only because of these reasons that I requested the party to allow me to work with the people and excuse me from contesting the election.
There is a palpable feeling that the Congress government, led by Kamal Nath, won’t survive for long and you are the chief minister-in-waiting, especially if the BJP comes back to power at the Centre. What is your perception about the longevity of the incumbent government?
We are not going to topple or destabilise any government from completing its term, but if the government falls under its own weight, then we can’t help it. There is no denying the fact that this government is not a majority government. This government was formed with the help of Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and independents. And there are many inner contradictions and vested interests threatening its existence.
If we wanted to topple the government, we would not have allowed the Congress to come to power in the first place. Many MLAs had approached us for extending support. But we realised that despite scoring highest votes, we didn’t enough seats to garner a majority, so we thought a chance should be given to those who got more seats. This is the moral stand we took and are all sticking to it.
You lost the election with a narrow margin. Have you analysed the factors leading to loss of crucial seats?
I have said many times that I was the only reason and we lost because of my shortcomings. Party workers worked hard, people also showered their love on us but we still fell short of numbers.
You mention in election rallies that Digvijaya Singh is no issue in this election and that he doesn’t matter. What is your reason for saying so?
He is known to have thrown the state into backwardness during the 10 years of his tenure. He committed the unforgivable crime of throwing the state into crises and chaos. When I say that he is not an issue in this election, it is simply because people have not forgotten his bad governance that lasted a decade. They know him and his deeds.
In your opinion, what are the issues in this election?
The most important issue before the people is the question of who will win this election. The issue is who will lead the country and they find there is no one other than Modiji. He is in the heart of the people. The other issues that dominate are concerns for national security, development and public welfare.
Madhya Pradesh has an additional issue. There is a strong feeling of unease in the people. The current government has proved to be very bad in such a short time.
Can you please explain why you find the Congress government 'very bad'?
There are many reasons. To start with, their tallest promise of loan waiver is not fulfilled and the promise of unemployment allowance and generating employment opportunities have also notbeen fulfilled so far. Public welfare schemes for poor like ‘Sambal’ had been closed, list of eligible farmers who did not get Rs 6,000 under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi are yet to be sent to the Centre. Rs 500 per quintal bonus on soybean crop has not been delivered, dhan (paddy) bonus has not been paid to farmers and bhavantar (price difference) amount has not yet been given to farmers.
Our government had allocated Rs 5,000 to the poor for performing last rites, which has been withdrawn. Free medical treatment for the poor has ceased to operate. The state which never faced power shortage in the last 13 years is now facing power cuts. To make matters worse, people are getting hefty electricity bills.
The only industry which is flourishing in Madhya Pradesh is the ‘transfer industry’ and the present government is indulging in corruption big time.
You are travelling a lot and addressing a lot of public meetings. How many public meetings have you addressed so far?
After submitting my resignation from the chief minister’s post, I have been continuously in touch with people on a daily basis. I was never attached to the chief minister’s post, I am rather attached to the people, During my tenure as chief minister, I used to work for 18 to 20 hours a day for the benefit of the people. Today, we are in the Opposition and doing our duty to highlight their concerns and fight for them whenever they need it. We are now serving the people in a different capacity.
Will your public meetings continue after this Lok Sabha elections?
After the elections, it will continue. We will fight for people’s issues. This is the power of democracy and people have given us a mandate for the same. If you are in the Opposition, it is your responsibility to compel the government to serve the people for their welfare and make it accountable. We will keep the up the struggle.
Should it be understood that you have no plan to move to the Centre for some other responsibilities?
I love to work for my people and live with them. But in the current elections, I have visited 14 states as the party asked me to do so. I performed duties of the national vice-president of the party and traveled across the country.
What will be your response if Centre demands your expertise and experience at the national level?
It will depend on the party and I will follow the party’s directions and orders.
What is your calculation for this election?
Bharatiya Janata Party will register glorious victory and we are trying hard to win all 29 seats of the state.
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Updated Date: Apr 28, 2019 22:41:27 IST