Indore (Madhya Pradesh): State Congress President and former Chief Minister Kamal Nath said on Wednesday that after travelling extensively across the state, he is confident that people have decided to vote for the grand old party this time.
Just like in 2018, people are with the Congress this time as well because the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government has turned Madhya Pradesh into a land of scams with '50 per cent commission' becoming its hallmark, the veteran Congress leader said in an exclusive interview with IANS.
Kamal Nath also said that Madhya Pradesh should not be identified with just scams and corruption, and once voted to power, the Congress will investigate all the scams which have taken place in the past 18 years.
While referring to the 'betrayal' by Jyotidaritya Scindia in 2020 that led to the toppling of the 15-month-old Congress government led by him, Kamal Nath said that the party will get a clear mandate this time, including in the Gwalior-Chambal region considered a bastion of the Scindia family.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
IANS: Is it important to play the soft-Hindutva/Hindutva card to win elections nowadays? You are being pointed out for that...
Kamal Nath: I do not comment on any terminology such as 'Hindutva' or 'soft Hindutva' or 'super Hindutva'. It is the duty of every citizen to work for faith and culture. For the Congress and us, religion is a matter of conduct and thought, not a matter of propaganda.
Politics should be religion, religion should not be politics. We had started the process of building a temple of Mata Sita in Sri Lanka during our previous government. But the Shivraj (Singh Chouhan) government stalled the process. As soon as we come to power, we will resume the work of building the temple in Sri Lanka.
I established a 101 feet tall idol of Lord Hanuman in Chhindwara 15 years ago... This is my faith and it 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 Mandir.
We are enriching our heritage and culture. I don't understand one thing - why BJP gets a stomach ache if I worship at a temple... I don't need to get a Hindu certificate from the BJP.
IANS: INDIA bloc partners have accused you of not accommodating them in MP. If reciprocal happens in a state like UP, won't the ultimate aim of INDIA bloc get defeated?
Kamal Nath: The Congress is committed to the INDIA bloc. The thrust of the alliance is the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, and whoever is strong should play the main role.
All the allies of the INDIA bloc keep discussing things among themselves, and after the five state elections get over, our strategy for the Lok Sabha elections will be revealed.
IANS: The Congress has announced a slew of guarantees for the people of Madhya Pradesh. How much impact will these guarantees have as compared to what we saw in Karnataka earlier this year?
Kamal Nath: Under Congress rule, people's tax money will be spent on people's development. The Congress is committed to the welfare of the people of Madhya Pradesh, and working in public interest is our first and last priority.
The Congress will waive loans of farmers, increase the support price for wheat to Rs 2,600 per quintal and for paddy to Rs 2,500 per quintal. Up to 100 units of electricity will be free and up to 200 units will be given at half price.
We will restore the old pension scheme (OPS) for government employees. The Congress government had given 27 per cent reservation to OBCs, which was abolished by the BJP. We will again give 27 per cent reservation to OBCs.
We will also make appointments to 2 lakh government vacancies. Every family will be given health insurance of up to Rs 25 lakh. Gas cylinders will be given to women for Rs 500.
We will implement all these guarantees as it is the duty of any welfare state to do so.
I have been travelling across the state and I strongly feel that the people have made up their minds to vote for a change. The Congress is going to win the elections with a big majority.
Public anger against Shivraj Singh Chouhan's misrule of 18 years and trust in the Congress will decide the outcome of the elections.
IANS: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not taking the name of Shivraj Singh Chouhan and is rather seeking votes in his name. Do you feel that the people of the state are no longer inclined towards the state BJP, something which might help the Congress?
Kamal Nath: See, the issues raised for Lok Sabha elections are totally different from those raised during Assembly polls. Modi ji had given the guarantee of giving employment to two crore youth every year, was it fulfilled? Did Rs 15 lakh come into everyone's bank account?
People have now understood BJP's politics of diverting attention. Factionalism and infighting in the BJP is their internal matter, and I don't want to go into that. Still, it is a matter of thought as to why is the BJP ashamed to ask for votes in the name Shivraj Singh Chouhan? The people and even the BJP workers are upset because of their false promises.
The people of Madhya Pradesh are very intelligent. They will decide the fate of the elections on the issues concerning Madhya Pradesh. Each and every worker of the Congress is going among the public with full confidence to take up the works of our 15-month government.
In 15 months, my government had introduced its intention and policy. We waived loans of 27 lakh farmers, we gave relief to the public by giving 100 units of electricity for Rs 100. The amount of social security pension was increased from Rs 300 to Rs 600 per month. To prevent adulteration, we waged a war for purity. We will definitely benefit from all these achievements in the coming elections.
IANS: Do you think the people of the state will remember the 'betrayal' of public mandate in 2020 and vote for the Congress this time?
Kamal Nath: I don't get involved in the politics of accusations. But I must tell you one thing that even today, people are with the Congress just like in 2018. If you talk to the people, you will feel the energy.
I am in politics for over 40 years now. I have a long experience of contesting and winning elections. I can recognise through people's eyes what is in their hearts. The people of Madhya Pradesh have decided to form a Congress government this time.
The municipal elections were held in the state a year ago. All the 16 municipal corporations in Madhya Pradesh had a BJP Mayor last time. This time, five from the Congress have become the Maoyr.
In two seats, we lost due to the misuse of police, money power and administration. The Congress was at zero in the previous municipal elections, but this time we came at par with the BJP.
The Congress also performed brilliantly in the rural body polls. We won two of the four Assembly by-elections. You see, we started from the bottom but are only moving upwards.
As far as the main issues of Madhya Pradesh are concerned, the Shivraj Chouhan government has tarnished the image of Madhya Pradesh with scams like Vyapam, Mahakal Lok, patwari recruitment, guard recruitment, nursing college scam etc.
Shivraj ji has turned Madhya Pradesh into a land of scams, and 50 per cent commission has become the hallmark of this government.
People are suffering due to inflation. The farmers are worried about crop failure. There are no roads to walk on. Power cuts are rampant. Young people are roaming around unemployed. The debt burden on the state is increasing. All these problems are the main issues for Madhya Pradesh going into the polls.
One mantra of the Shivraj Chouhan government is 'give money, take work'. The people of Madhya Pradesh will vote this time to overthrow this bargain government.
IANS: How many seats do you think the Congress will get this time?
Kamal Nath: What I can say is that the Congress will form the government with a huge mandate. It is Shivraj Singh Chouhan who makes such projections about numbers... If you ask him, he will say the BJP will win 250 seats out of 230!
IANS: Do you think the people of Gwalior will vote for the Congress this time because of the betrayal of March 2020?
Kamal Nath: Of course. I do not believe in vendetta politics, but Chambal's water does not tolerate treachery or betrayal. The Congress will put up a historic show in entire Madhya Pradesh, including the Gwalior-Chambal region.
In addition to this, I believe the BJP workers are also going to support the truth this time, for farm loan waiver, OPS, electricity at lower price, youth employment and women's respect.
IANS: If you win the polls, will you reach out to Jyotiraditya Scindia?
Kamal Nath: The question makes no sense.
IANS: The BJP has fielded several Union ministers and MPs this time. Will it have any impact?
Kamal Nath: The BJP is losing the elections, so the change in strategy is on show. They (BJP) did the same in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh, but the people voted for a government that would work for their welfare.
Go to the ground and see the condition of the Union ministers who are contesting the elections. Only the Congress is in the minds of MP's people this time.
IANS: Congress has been accusing the BJP of being corrupt. What will be the first decision of the party to deal with complaints of corruption if voted to power?
Kamal Nath: Madhya Pradesh should not be identified with scams and corruption. When the Congress government comes, all the scams that have taken place in the last 18 years will be investigated.
We have also promised in the manifesto to form a recruitment inquiry commission to check corruption in recruitment scams. By preventing commissions and scams, we will raise additional funds for implementing our guarantees.
Question: During Congress' 15-month rule, it took several decisions for the state at its first Cabinet meeting in Jabalpur. However after your government lost majority, most of the decisions remained on paper. Please comment...
Kamal Nath: You see, the BJP government is a television government, it uses advertisements to hide its scams. This is the reason why this government failed to understand the important decisions taken by the Congress when we were in power.
Perhaps advance or commission for those works could not be arranged, so the BJP let them remain on paper. But our government will complete all those unfinished works.
IANS: Jabalpur is also a big recruitment centre for the Indian Army. You think the Congress targeting the Centre over the Agnipath scheme will help the party defeat the BJP in one of its strongholds?
Kamal Nath: The youth are not getting employment in the state, including in Jabalpur. So, the departure of BJP is imminent now.