MP is missing ITS Mama: Shivraj Chouhan


Bhopal: Having served as Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh for three consecutive terms, senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan is now BJP’s chief campaigner in the state for the Lok Sabha elections. Chouhan is confident that the “failures” of the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh would make it easy for the BJP to win 25 to 27 Lok Sabha seats in the state. “The Congress government in MP is a boon for the BJP,” Chouhan told The Sunday Guardian.

Chouhan, a BJP vice president and a member of BJP parliamentary board, spoke at length on the BJP’s prospects in the general elections, the political situation in Madhya Pradesh and issues like development, nationalism, agrarian crisis and farm loan waiver. Excerpts:

Q: The BJP was recently thrown out of power in Madhya Pradesh after 15 years of rule. How will the BJP persuade the voters in the Lok Sabha elections?

A: There are two key factors. First is “Modi vs who”.  Nobody has any answer to this. People of India have firm faith in the able leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and they will re-elect him as the Prime Minister on 23 May. Coming to Madhya Pradesh, the Congress government is a boon for the BJP. In just four months, people have felt the difference.

Farmers of Madhya Pradesh are angry over the government’s betrayal in the name of farm loan waiver. Against the total farm loan of Rs 48,000 crore, the government has only given Rs 1,300 crore to banks. No farmer has so far got the certificate of loan waiver. No unemployed in Madhya Pradesh has been given any allowance. People in public meetings say “we are missing Mama”. I can confidently say that we will win 25 to 27 seats in MP.

Q: You have accused the Congress government of total failure. What is the basis of your charges?

A: In such a short span of time, Madhya Pradesh has been driven back to the age of power-cuts. Digvijaya Singh generator le kar chal rahe hain (Digvijaya Singh is moving around with power back-up). Kamal Nath had to cast his vote using the flash light of his mobile phone because there was no electricity at the polling booth.

Secondly, all welfare schemes launched by the erstwhile BJP government have been closed due to paucity of funds, including the schemes under which Rs 4,000 and Rs 12,000 was given to new mothers and Rs 5,000 was given for performing last rites of poor people.

Instead of improving the situation in the state, the Congress government has launched a “transfer-posting industry”. The law and order situation has deteriorated; recently a deputy superintendent of police was shot dead at his residence in Bhopal.

Q: The BJP talks of the development agenda, then why does it need to bring up nationalism as the core issue in elections?

A: Why not? Nationalism is certainly a poll issue. People must know that the country is in safe hands. After the surgical strikes and the air strike in Pakistan, every Indian’s heart filled with pride. Sabka seena 56-inch ka ho gaya (Every Indian felt the 56-inch chest). Only those who nurtured SIMI and spoke the language of terrorists are terrified. The entire country except the Congress was proud of India’s action against Pakistan.

When India was celebrating, Congress leaders were hiding their faces. Our security forces killed every aide of Burhan Wani. Masood Azhar has been recognised as global terrorist. The BJP government is committed to crush all anti-national forces.

Q: Then what necessitated the candidature of Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur from Bhopal?

A: It was a well thought-out move. It was important to field Sadhvi Pragya as she is a victim of the false narrative of “Hindu terror” built by the Congress. Digvijaya Singh and the then Home Minister P. Chidambaram were the masterminds. She was framed in the case to establish this narrative and was subjected to the most inhuman treatment in jail. It’s not her fight (in Bhopal), it is the BJP’s fighting.

Q: But the BJP could have waited for her acquittal…

A: What is the need to wait? We are sure that she is innocent and we don’t hide it. The decision on her candidature was taken after long deliberation by the party high command. When the Congress fielded Digvijaya Singh from Bhopal, we thought that she was the most appropriate candidate against him.

Q: You could also have been a perfect candidate for the BJP?

A: I have been a three-time Chief Minister. I could have contested from any of the seats in Madhya Pradesh and gone to Delhi, but that would be unfair to party workers and the 7.5 crore people of the state. In this time of struggle, I need to be on the streets with my people. I have requested the BJP leadership to allow me to work in the state.

Q: This time, the BJP is contesting in Madhya Pradesh without stalwarts like Sushma Swaraj and Sumitra Mahajan. Will it affect BJP’s prospects?

A: I don’t think so. Certain issues in the party should be dealt with on the basis of principles and it should be the same for all. The party’s view (on the age factor) was communicated to all seniors. This will pave way for a new leadership.

Q: Your image of a leader who understands the farmers’ plight could have been beneficial for the BJP if it is re-elected to power.

A: The BJP already has a long-term plan in place to improve the condition of farmers and double their income. The government is working on a five-point formula to make agriculture a profitable business. These include reducing production cost, increasing productivity, fair price to farmers, new scientific methods of agriculture and adequate compensation to farmers for loss. The Modi government’s initiatives like increasing minimum support price by 50%, soil health card, interest-free farm loan and crop insurance, aim at achieving this target.