V.D. Sharma, MP from Khajuraho and BJP State chief, is an RSS old-timer. He disagrees that the government is facing anti-incumbency and points to the phenomenal response to the party’s Jan Ashirvad yatras. He says the government’s economic incentives are leading to a social transformation, especially for the marginalised sections. Excerpts from an interview:
Is the BJP on the back foot in Madhya Pradesh? How is the reception to the party’s Jan Ashirvad yatra?
The BJP rolled out five Jan Ashirvad yatras, all of which received wide public support. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-poor initiatives and his development agendas and the commendable performance of the State government have triggered this outpouring of public solidarity and affection. We have an efficient organisation down to the booth level, and our cadre work round the clock to take the party’s message and work to the people. There is no doubt that we will be handsomely voted back to power.
The BJP government has announced a slew of schemes ahead of the election. Is that not revadi culture?
The BJP doesn’t bring schemes with elections in mind. Pro-poor schemes have been necessitated by 50 years of Congress misrule. Prime Minister Modi started Ayushman Bharat, guaranteeing free medical care up to Rs.5 lakh for every poor person; the Congress did not think about health care for the poor. In Madhya Pradesh, we have distributed 3.6 crore Ayushman cards to the poor, besides benefiting 44 lakh poor people under the PM Aawas yojana. Our double-engine government, with the PM’s “beti padhao, beti bachao” initiative and MP’s Laadli Laxmi yojana, has benefited 46 lakh girls and changed social attitudes towards women. The fact that the female sex ratio has spiked from 948 to 970 in the State attests to that.
Similarly, our Ladli Behna yojana, under which women are getting a monthly endowment of Rs.1,250 and which we have now promised to upgrade to Rs.3,000, has been envisaged to extend equal right and equal respect to all women. Sikho Kamao yojana, on the other hand, is enabling our youth to acquire skills and become entrepreneurs. Our schemes are aimed at addressing social needs and pioneering social change. This is not revadi cuture.
The Congress has dubbed the BJP government in the State as a “50 per cent commission government” while announcing incentives for the people. Do you feel threatened?
The “50 per cent commission government” jibe has backfired on the Congress, which relied on a misleading letter written by a union with little credibility to the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. It attracted an FIR against Priyanka Gandhi and other Congress leaders. The BJP governments in the State and at the Centre are focussed on eradicating poverty and spearheading development. When the Congress came to power in the State for 15 months [December 2018-March 2020], it stalled all pro-poor schemes, and dishonoured its promise of waiving farm loans, as a consequence of which farmers defaulted on loans. When we returned to power, we earmarked Rs.22 crore for farmers to ensure that they were no longer loan defaulters. The Congress [government] also declined to give allowances to unemployed young people.
- Madhya Pradesh State BJP chief V.D. Sharma disagrees that his party’s government in the State is facing anti-incumbency and points to the phenomenal response to the party’s Jan Ashirvad yatras.
- He says the government’s economic incentives are leading to a social transformation, especially for the marginalised sections.
- Asked why the BJP has not projected Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as its chief ministerial face, he says the BJP is a cadre-based party, and it has been our tradition to function under a collective leadership,
- He claims the BJP will once sweep the Vindhya region as it did in 2018.
Farmers played a major part in the Congress’ rebound in the 2018 Assembly election. This time Kamal Nath has promised a Krishak yojana for the agrarian community. The Congress is also attacking the BJP for not tabling the report on the Mandsaur violence in the Assembly.
Who will believe Kamal Nath’s assurances? Last time, he did not even partly fulfil his promise of farm loan waivers. He is using psychological warfare to become the Chief Minister, but his day-dreaming won’t help. Elections are won on the basis of good governance, and when you work to empower the underprivileged and gain their blessings, as the BJP has done. Their Jan Aakrosh Yatra witnessed intra-party scuffles and vanadalism. Our yatras saw crowds swelling past midnight. Madhya Pradesh is not Karnataka; Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh’s bundle of lies will have no effect on voters.
The BJP did very well in the tribal-dominated Vindhya region in 2018. But of late there have been assaults on tribal people. Analysts say your party could see a reversal of fortune in the Vindhya region.
The BJP will once again sweep the Vindhya region. We marked Gaurav diwas and we are working to accord tribal people equal rights and equal respect and make them part of the success story of the State, and passed the PESA Act. We gave the country the first woman President from the tribal community. We are slated to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Rani Durgawati.
If anyone thought of honouring tribal freedom fighters like Raja Shankar Shah and Raghunath Shah, it was the BJP. It is again the BJP which celebrates the legacies of tribal war heroes like Bhima Nayak and Tantia Bhil. The Congress always ignored the tribal people while indulging in appeasement politics.
What prevented the BJP from officially announcing a chief ministerial face? It seems you are one of the claimants to the post.
The BJP is a cadre-based party, and it has been our tradition to function under a collective leadership. Shivraj Singh Chouhan is a remarkably hardworking Chief Minister and under his leadership Madhya Pradesh is no longer seen as a Bimaru State. It is now witnessing headway in all development indices and excelling in several of them. It is our pro-poor vision of governance that saw around 1.36 crore people of the State coming out of poverty in the past five years.