Sunday Interview: â€˜Why canâ€™t nationalism be a poll issue? India is in safe handsâ€™
Three-time former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and BJP national vice-president Shivraj Singh Chouhan is confident that the BJP would definitely form the next government at the Centre. Talking to Shashi Bhushan, Mr Chouhan said the four-month rule of the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh has worked in favour of the BJP in the parliamentary elections as the state government had failed to keep any of its poll promises. He said that the state was plagued by frequent power cuts and situation was so bad that Congress candidate Digvijay Singh had to move around with his power back up and chief minister Kamal Nath had to use the flashlight of his mobile phone to cast his vote. He also criticised the state government for its failure to waive loans to farmers.
The BJP talks about transformation taking place in the country in the last five years due to the development agenda of Narendra Modi’s government. Then how come it is bringing up nationalism as the core issue in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections?
Why can nationalism not be an issue? Nationalism is a poll issue and the people must know that the country is in safe hands under a strong leader. After the surgical strikes and airstrikes in Pakistan, every Indian’s heart filled with pride. Sabka seena 56-inch ka ho gaya (Every Indian felt his chest measured 56-inches). Only those who nurtured SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) and speak the language of terrorists are afraid. The entire country, except the opposition parties and especially the Congress, was proud of the government’s action against Pakistan. When the country was celebrating, the Congress leaders were hiding their faces. Our security forces killed every aide of Burhan Wani. Masood Azhar has been recognised as a global terrorist. The BJP government is committed to crushing all anti-national forces.
What is your assessment of 2019 Lok Sabha polls? Is BJP coming back to power at the centre?
During the ongoing campaign, I travelled 10 states and addressed over 125 public meetings. There was a huge public response in favour of BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I am confident that the BJP will form the next government at the Centre with a bigger mandate than that which the people had given to it in 2014. The Prime Minister is the only jan neta (mass leader) of recent times with a popularity that is unmatched by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or even by H.D. Deve Gowda. Whatever the Opposition claims, we are confident that the BJP will form the government after the declaration of results on May 23.
This time the BJP is contesting in Madhya Pradesh without stalwarts like Sushma Swaraj and Sumitra Mahajan. Will it affect BJP’s electoral prospects?
I don’t think so. The party’s view (on the age factor) was communicated to all senior leaders. This will pave the way for new leadership without creating any vacuum. The decision will help the party groom new leaders to fill the shoes of their seniors who have contributed immensely to the growth of the organisation.
In December last year, the BJP had lost the Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh after 15 years of rule. How the BJP is persuading the voters in the Lok Sabha elections to repeat its 2014 performance?
There are two key factors. The first is Modi vs whom and the Opposition has no answer to that. The people of India have firm faith in the able and strong leadership of Prime Minister Modi and they will once again re-elect him as the Prime Minister on May 23 and with even more support than before. Second, coming to Madhya Pradesh, the Congress government led by chief minister Kamal Nath has favoured the BJP in the state. In just four months, the people have felt the difference between the Congress and the BJP governments. Farmers of Madhya Pradesh are angry with the government for betraying them in the name of farm loan waiver. Against a total farm loan of Rs 48,000 crore, the government has only given Rs 1,300 crore to banks for loan waiver to farmers. No farmer has so far got the certificate for loan waiver. Power cuts are frequent. In a short period of four months, people have started missing the BJP government. “Mama hee behtar tha (Shivraj was better),” they now say. After travelling across the state, I can confidently say that the BJP will win 25 to 27 seats in Madhya Pradesh.
You are saying that the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh is a total failure. What is the basis of your allegation?
In such a short span of time of four months, Madhya Pradesh has been driven back to the age of power cuts. Former chief minister and Congress candidate from Bhopal Digvijaya Singh “generator le kar chal rahe hain (Digvijaya Singh is moving around with power back-up)”. Chief minister Kamal Nath had to cast his vote using the flashlight of his mobile phone because there was no electricity in the polling booth. Second, all welfare schemes launched by the previous BJP government have been closed due to unavailability of funds. But instead of improving the situation, the Congress government has launched a transfer-posting industry to make money. Law and order has deteriorated; a deputy superintendent of police was shot dead at his residence in Bhopal.
Is the BJP trying to topple the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh?
The BJP has no intention of toppling the Madhya Pradesh government. If our intention was to topple the Congress government, then at the very first instance we would not have allowed the formation of this government. There are lot of differences within this government. If it falls due to this, the BJP cannot do anything.
Can we see you in a bigger role in the next government in New Delhi after May 23?
I have been a three-time chief minister. I could have contested for the Lok Sabha from any of the constituency in Madhya Pradesh and gone to Delhi but that would be unfair on the party workers and the 7.5 crore people of this 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. I will continue to work in Madhya Pradesh.