The Congress can never unite in MP, says BJP national vice president Prabhat Jha.
BJP national vice president and Rajya Sabha member Prabhat Jha talked to The Sunday Guardian on why farmers will ensure the return of the BJP for the fourth time in Madhya Pradesh, and why the Congress lost the plot the day it announced Kamal Nath as the state Congress chief.
Q: What makes you so sure about coming back to power in Madhya Pradesh, a state where you are battling 15 years of anti-incumbency?
A: Earlier, the BJP was known as a party only of “Agda” (forward castes) and “Baniya” (traders). However, in the last 15 years, we have become a party that works and thinks for the uplift and benefit of the poor and the middle class. Our focus is to become a pro-poor party. The kind of work that we have done for our “pro-poor constituency”, which includes farmers, workers and labourers, is very much visible on the ground in Madhya Pradesh. If anti-incumbency is such a big thing, how did we win in 2008 and then again in 2013? You must also keep in mind the exponential reach that we have done in the same 15 years, and, hence, I know that we will win.
Q: Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan calls himself a pro-farmer CM, but under his watch so many farmers have committed suicide in the state. Last year, the Mandsaur firing took place. How do you respond to this?
A: The death of even a single farmer is very sad and tragic and not a single life should be lost. We have done a lot of things for the farmers. Unlike any other state, we have arranged at every step a government-aided system to help the farmer. We give up to Rs 4 lakh as loan on zero per cent interest to farmers. The minimum support price that we give to farmers is among the highest. We are sure that the farmers will support us and Shivraj Singh Chouhan once again.
Q: You claim that the Shivraj Chouhan government has carried out a lot of pro-farmer, pro-poor work. But MP is the fourth poorest state in terms of per capita income. MP also has the highest infant mortality rate in the country.
A: Many of the things that are written about the state is based on propaganda. MP has 36% ST population and 15% SC population. And we have done our best to bring benefits to each one of them. There has been no death due to undernourishment. From the day a child is born, the state government’s schemes come into play. As many as 5.5 crore people of the state are getting rice and wheat at Rs 1 per kg.
Our government has also recognised the workers who are in the unorganised sector and has provided them benefits through ID card. From healthcare to education, everything has been covered for them. Labour schools are being opened especially for them. The number of houses that have been constructed under PMAY is huge, the loan granted under MUDRA, especially to women and people belonging to ST, is something that we are very happy about. In MP, the SC-ST vote bank traditionally belonged to the Congress, but due to our work over the last 15 years, they have shifted to us. That is why we have been winning on more than 60 of the 82 reserved seats in the state. This can only happen if we are seen to be pro-poor.
Q: There is a perception that Shivraj Singh Chouhan is a good media manager, and, hence, the negative stories from the state don’t get headlines nationally. As one of the BJP media coordinators, how do you respond to this?
A: The media is something that cannot be managed in this world. You tell me, if there is brightness outside, can the media write it is dark or vice versa? The reporter, the editor, care for their readers and viewers and they know that they will lose all their credibility if they spread falsehoods.
Q: In the last few days, many of your MLAs and ministers faced protests from voters when they visited their constituencies.
A: The anger that you are referring to is not against the government, but against individuals. If I go somewhere tomorrow and people show black flags to me, that would be because of their anger against me, not against the government. However, whenever we have come across any such incident, our senior leaders, including the CM, have discussed the related grievances. Chouhan is a CM who has gone to every village of the state; he works for 18 hours, and such sporadic incidents do not worry us.
Q: The BJP has lost multiple byelections in the recent past. Is that not an ominous sign of things to come?
A: We have not lost even a single byelection. Kolaras, Mungaoli, Ater, Chitrakoot were held by Congress MLAs and in the byelection, too, it was the Congress that retained the seat. You can say that we have not been able to take the seat from them, though we are confident we would in the coming election. We have not lost any of our seats, in fact, we took the Maihar seat from them. If the Congress is happy with winning byelections, so be it. We will win the Assembly elections.
Q: How many sitting MLAs will be dropped?
A: We will give tickets to those who will win, those who have not performed will have to sit out.
Q: Congress was a divided house in 2008 and 2013 which helped you immensely. The situation is not the same anymore. Does that worry you?
A: The Congress can never unite in Madhya Pradesh. They have eight groups here led by Suresh Pachouri, Kanti Lal Bhuria, Rajmani Patel, Digvijaya Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Arun Yadav, Ajay Singh and Kamal Nath. This factionalism will come to the fore during ticket distribution. They are trying to show a united house because they are scared and know that this time too they will lose. Their only focus is to come to power by any means possible. This is a fake show of togetherness which will not hold. You need to understand that Kamal Nath is not a leader of the state, he has worked only in Chhindwara, never for the state as a whole. He has no presence, influence in any other part of the state and this is a fact that no one can dispute. Scindia too is only a leader of Guna and not the adjoining areas. They don’t even know how many districts are there in MP. Kamal Nath by nature is not a leader, but a businessman. Scindia is a royal dynasty politician. My point is that neither of them shares a common man’s background. The only real leader now in Madhya Pradesh Congress is Digvijaya Singh; he knows every Congress worker by name, but as soon as he comes in public people start saying “Mr Bantadhar has come”, as they are reminded of his tenure as CM when there was no water, no road. Kamal Nath has money, so he became the state president.
Q: You think Kamal Nath is a wrong choice?
A: They lost the election the day they announced him as the state president. Recently, when Rahul Gandhi came to Mandsaur to “support” the farmers, their only farmer leader, Arun Yadav, was not allowed on the stage. His father, the late Subhash Yadav lived all his life for the farmers and was their biggest leader. Kamal Nath is not a leader of the farmers. The message that has gone to the people with his appointment is that the Congress is a party of the rich, not of the poor.
With all humility, I want to say that Kamal Nath is an industrialist who declared the most money in his affidavit among all the MPs. It is just that the Congress issued the tender for PCC chief and Kamal Nath got the contract. He is 72-year-old and has been in politics for nearly 40 years now, why was he not able to become the PCC chief all these years? He runs a political factory in Chhindwara, the topmost post of which is only reserved for him and his family members. He manages the constituency through one CMD, 4 MDs, 4 GMs, 16 AGMs and more than 4,000 paid workers in Chhindwara. This is the way he runs his election. He is not a leader.
Q: There is a strong possibility that the Congress will go for an alliance with the rest of the Opposition parties like SP, BSP and Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) in the state. How much will this alliance, if it fructifies, impact the BJP’s performance?
A: Too much is being talked about this alliance which may or may not see the light of day. If you go by the 2013 poll results, even if SP, BSP, GGP and Congress come together, we will win 120 seats.