Leading the Congress’s charge against the Shivraj Singh Chauhan government in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly election, former Chief MinisterKamal Nathsays that the BJP is embarrassed to ask for votes in Chauhan’s name. In a conversation withDH’sAmrita Madhukalya, Nath insists that the caste census will take place in MP, Jyotiraditya Scindia will be humiliated, and he does not need a certificate of being Hindu from the BJP. Excerpts.
What are the key issues in the MP elections this time?
The people of Madhya Pradesh want to change the corruption and commission system in the state. We are fighting this election on issues like corruption, inflation, unemployment, and farmers’ problems. The biggest issue in Madhya Pradesh is the 50% commission government of the BJP. The Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has made MP known for its scams: Vyapam, Dumper, Patwari Recruitment, Constable Recruitment, Simhastha Mahakumbh, Mahakal Lok Scam, and Nursing College Scam.Madhya Pradesh is also number one when it comes to tribal atrocities, atrocities on Dalits, atrocities on women, unemployment and farmers’ problems. It is the Congress party’s responsibility to change this situation. The 8.5 crore people of the state are standing with the truth in this election; the people are with the Congress.
The BJP has not named Shivraj Chauhan as their CM candidate, even after his 18-year tenure. Do you think the infighting within the BJP will work to your advantage?
Factionalism and internal fighting in the BJP are their internal matters. I won’t comment on that. However, isn’t it concerning that the BJP is embarrassed to seek votes in Shivraj Singh’s name? The public, and BJP workers, are upset with his deceptive politics. The people of Madhya Pradesh are intelligent. Every Congress worker is reaching out to the people, confident in the work of our government, which was in power for 15 months. We waived the loans of 27 lakh farmers, provided 100 units of electricity at Rs 100, and increased the social security pension from Rs 300 to Rs 600 per month.The BJP is losing this election, like they did in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh. They are fielding senior leaders under the guise of changing strategies. But the people will vote for those who work for their welfare. One only needs to see the condition of the Union Ministers contesting the elections.
The Congress has advocated for a caste census. If elected, will you implement one in Madhya Pradesh?
There is no poll pitch for a caste census. Our stand is clear—the Congress started the caste census in 2011 while in power. By the time the final figures of the caste census came, the BJP government was formed at the Centre, which did not release these figures. What is the harm in conducting a caste census? Why does the BJP have a problem with this? Most importantly, the caste census is a medium of social justice for us, and we are committed to it if we come to power.
In 2018, you won the mandate but lost the government in two years. How are you preparing for such a situation if Congress comes to power?
Anyone who understands the politics of MP will understand the political undercurrents here. The Congress has prepared the organisation structure down to the booth level. Today, you see a united Congress right from the mandal to the top. Factionalism in the Congress Party in Madhya Pradesh ended in 2020. If there is any factionalism today, it is within the BJP. The BJP’s posters feature 12 leaders. If the BJP had been united, they would have put forward one face with which everyone would have stood. Over 60 senior leaders, including former MPs, ministers, current MLAs, former MLAs, Municipality President, District Panchayat President, and District Panchayat Member, have joined the Congress in the last 6 months, along with thousands of their supporters.
Jyotiraditya Scindia is now in the BJP, so I do not want to comment on him. But the truth is that after he left Congress, for the first time in 58 years, the Congress party had its mayor in Gwalior in 2022. After 32 years, the mayor of Morena, which is adjacent to Gwalior, was from the Congress party.Today, the Congress Party is stronger in the Gwalior-Chambal region than ever before. Some people have falsely glorified themselves in Delhi circles, which will end in these assembly elections.
There have been protests against ticket distribution within Congress, and there are speculations that senior leader Digvijaya Singh is not as involved in poll preparations as he was in 2018. Is there infighting within the Congress? How is the party dealing with it?
These are rumours spread by the BJP. All Congress Party leaders and workers are together. There’s no need for the media to speculate about my equation with Digvijaya Singh. Our banter has always continued; we have been together for 40 years and will remain together in the future. The BJP is scared because Congress soldiers, along with the people, will form the government in Madhya Pradesh with an overwhelming majority.
You’ve spoken about the Ram Temple locks being opened by Rajiv Gandhi in the past. Do you think that Hindutva is a poll pitch that parties cannot afford to miss?
It is the duty of every citizen to work for faith and culture, but for us in the Congress, religion is a matter of achaarand vichaar(conduct and ideology) and not a matter of prachaar(publicity).I believe in rajniti ka dharam(politics bound by duty), not dharam ki rajniti(politics on religion).We had started the process of construction of the Mata Sita temple in Sri Lanka during our previous government; the Shivraj government stopped this process. As soon as we come to power, we will restart the work.I do not comment on terminologies, like Hindutva, soft Hindutva, or super Hindutva. I built a 101-foot-high statue of Lord Hanuman ji in Chhindwara 15 years ago, so this is my belief. This has nothing to do with politics. The Congress government had allocated Rs 355 crore for the grand construction of the Ram Van Gaman Path and Mahakal Temple. We are enriching our heritage and culture. I don’t understand why the BJP suddenly feels pained if I worship in the temple. I don’t need a certificate of being a Hindu from the BJP.
(Published 13 November 2023, 16:44 IST)