The former Chief Minister says that the Madhya Pradesh Assembly election will be fought on livelihood issues.
The Congress’ chief ministerial candidate in Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath, is mobilising public opinion in the State over price rise, unemployment, agrarian distress, and the spate of scams under the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. He says the people have made up their mind to end the “50 per cent commission government”. Excerpts from an interview he gave Frontine:
You have been touring the State ever since the Jan Aakrosh Yatra commenced. What are the primary issues for the common people in this election?
I have been touring all the regions of the State over the past two years, since the lockdown ended. Everywhere, I meet a cross section of the people and mandal- and block-level party workers and hold media interactions. The people have made up their mind to elect a Congress government. The trends from the local elections also attest to it.
As far as the primary issues of this election are concerned, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has sullied Madhya Pradesh’s image with a spate of scams. The Vyapam scam, the Mahakal Lok scam, the Patwarirecruitment exam scam, the constable recruitment exam scam, and the nursing college scam have tumbled out one after the other, earning MP the notoriety of being a scam pradesh. Chouhan’s government is being seen as a 50 per cent commission government.
The people are feeling the heat of soaring prices, the farmers are devastated due to bad crops, the roads are decrepit, power cuts are frequent, the youth are unemployed, and the State’s debt is increasing by the day. These are the deciding factors of this election.
There have been an increasing number of cases of assault on tribal people. How do you view this, and are you hopeful of improving your tally in the tribal-dominated Vindhya region, where the Congress’ performance in 2018 was underwhelming?
It is very unfortunate that when it comes to assault on tribal people, Madhya Pradesh is ranked at the top. This is what the data maintained by the Central government’s Crime Record Bureau show. Recently, a BJP legislator’s aide urinated on a tribal man in Sidhi district. Before this, a young tribal woman and five of her family members were buried alive in Nemawar. In Neemuch, a tribal man died after he was tied to a vehicle with a rope and dragged. In all these incidents, the prime accused was either a BJP leader or someone affiliated with the party.
As far as the Congress’ performance in tribal-reserved constituencies is concerned, the party won 32 of 47 seats in 2018. We are hopeful of improving that tally. In the Vindhya region, there is a complete change in the political landscape. If you tour the region, you will figure out that the Congress is slated for a historic sweep.
In 2018, resentment among farmers against the backdrop of the Mandsaur police violence had contributed to the Congress’ rebound in Madhya Pradesh. This time around, the BJP seems to have assuaged them with a dole out of sops. The Congress is also accused of only partly fulfilling its loan waiver promise.
It is a fact that the firing incident was a talking point of the last election. Although the government has not directly fired on farmers this time, their condition has deteriorated. Shivraj Singh Chouhan had promised to double farmers’ income in Madhya Pradesh in 2022, but the report tabled by a parliamentary committee shows that their income has slumped further, making them the country’s poorest farmers. The agrarian community at present is battered by the destruction caused by drought and then by flooding. More than 40 lakh farmers are staring at destitution as soybean crops are badly damaged. Leave alone compensating them, the government is yet to assess the losses incurred by them.
The BJP is misleading the public on farm loan waiver. As soon as we formed the government in 2018, we wrote farmers’ loans. The Shivraj government itself admitted in the State legislature that the erstwhile Congress government had waived the loans of 27 lakh farmers. This time, we have come up with five guarantees for farmers: farm loans will be waived; farmers using motor pumps up to 5 horsepower will not have to pay any electricity bill; the arrears of electricity bills will also be waived; farmers will gt electricity for 12 hours in a day for irrigation; and all unjust cases filed against farmers will be withdrawn.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan has acquired the image of a “Bulldozer mama”, with a potential to consolidate votes on communal lines. There were communal disturbances during Ram Navami in 2022. Will Hindutva play spoiler in Madhya Pradesh?
In two months’ time, the people will run a bulldozer over the BJP in Madhya Pradesh. The BJP can use its diversionary tactics, but the people are smarter than the BJP can imagine. This election will be fought on livelihood issues, and the Congress will win. The people have rejected the BJP’s politics of hate and division.
- Congress leader Kamal Nath says that the Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s government has earned Madhya Pradesh the notoriety of being a scam pradesh. Chouhan’s government is being seen as a 50 per cent commission government.
- He said that the people are feeling the heat of soaring prices and the farmers are devastated due to bad crops.
- According to Nath, the people have made up their minds to elect a Congress government and the trends from the local elections also attest to it.
The Congress’ soft Hindutva seems to be pronounced in Madhya Pradesh. There is an accusation that the Congress is not vocal on minority issues in States like MP, where the Muslim population is not substantial.
I participate in the religious functions of all faiths and creeds. If I revere Hindu deities, why does the BJP start panicking?
Why was the INDIA rally in Bhopal cancelled? Why are Digvijaya Singh’s posters missing in the Congress’ election paraphernalia?
I have clearly stated that the reason why the INDIA rally was not held in Bhopal was because the State Congress is preoccupied with the Jan Aakrosh Yatras. After some time, the model code of conduct will be in place, and I am myself touring the State extensively. We decided not to move ahead with the INDIA rally as it would mean stalling our entire election campaign in MP. Digvijaya Singh had himself requested the party not to put his posters on election banners.
How do you plan to make up for the vacuum the party is facing in the Gwalior-Chambal region after Jyotiraditya Scindia’s departure?
This is the first time I have heard that one man’s departure has caused a vacuum in Gwalior-Chambal. If you look at the election trends carefully, you will find that today the Congress is much stronger in the region. The Congress performed handsomely in byelections held in Gwalior-Chambal. In Gwalior, it was after 58 years that someone from our party became the Mayor. The Mayor in Morena was also elected from the Congress. A staggering number of Congress leaders who had deserted the party are flocking back to us, and so are BJP leaders. We are set for our strongest show in Gwalior-Chambal.
Are you confident of winning? How many seats do you expect?
A Congress government will be formed in Madhya Pradesh and it will be a government with a decisive majority. It is not in my veins to make predictions about the number of seats. That is Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s habit. If you ask him, he will say that out of 230 seats, he will win 250.