BJP national vice-president Prabhat Jha is dismissive about the opposition’s chances in upcoming Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh. According to Jha, the Congress leaders in the state are only leaders of their constituencies, while Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan remains the only acceptable leader in the state for the people. Speaking to Manish Anand, Jha also said that his party would soon release a list of Congress leaders who have fuelled the farmers’ agitation in the state despite having taken benefits under various agricultural schemes of the state government.
Madhya Pradesh is heading to Assembly elections amid looming spectre of Opposition unity. How do you assess the emerging challenge?
The irony of the whole narrative surrounding Opposition unity is the fact that the Congress is more divided than ever in MP. The question, in turn, is, How will a party divided internally attempt to forge Opposition unity? Besides, the state unit chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Narmada Prasad Ahirwar has just recently been booked in a molestation case. Additionally, the Congress would admit defeat if the party doesn’t contest all the 230 Assembly seats in the state.
Why do you think that the Congress is a divided house in MP, when the Opposition party is seeking to approach upcoming state polls under a collective leadership?
The fact that the Congress is a divided house is evident from the fact that the party MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is the campaign committee head of the party, had to cancel his planned yatra (outreach programme). The Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief Kamal Nath is absent from the scene had gone aboard. In the last two and a half months, Nath could not visit even 10 districts. Former state chief minister Digvijay Singh has been asked by Kamal Nath to stay away from the state after being miffed with his anti-Hindu comments. Another Congress leader Kantilal Bhuria is not coming out of his Bhabua Lok Sabha constituency. Besides, Ajay Singh’s family feud has become a public spectacle.
But what about the BJP, given the speculation surrounding Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar being seen as possible rivals?
The BJP chief Amit Shah has unequivocally stated on June 4 that the party would contest the Assembly elections under the leadership of Shivraj Singh Chouhan. He would be the chief minister if the BJP wins its fourth straight mandate. The BJP leaders are spearheading the campaign in the name of Chouhan, who continues to give the party an edge over the Congress because of his accessibility and performance.
Do you think that the BJP may have to deal with the anti-incumbency factor, given its 15 years of uninterrupted rule in the state?
The BJP won last three Assembly elections in MP when the party had not been in power at the Centre. Now, the BJP has a twin advantage – Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the face of the party and the schemes of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi led NDA government at the Centre. Last week’s Cabinet decision to give 50 per cent increased Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Kharif crops would also have the benign impact in the elections.
The farmers’ agitation in Mandsaur in the state has hit the national headlines. Is it a cause of concern for the BJP?
The Congress farmer leaders had been fuelling agitation in the state. Ironically, they have also been beneficiaries of schemes of the state government, including Bhavantar (government paying a difference of MSP and market prices of crops). We will soon release a list of the Congress leaders who have availed of benefits to the tune of `10 lakh, `5 lakh. We will expose such Congress leaders, who benefited, yet fuelled the agitation in a few pockets.
Dalit agitators reported most of the violent incidents from MP as well. Would that be a poll issue?
The Dalit agitation was essentially a social media run campaign to misguide the youth. The BJP had won all the reserved Lok Sabha seats in both MP and Rajasthan in the 2014 elections. The BJP is no more a Brahmin-Baniya party as the Opposition often used to say in the past. The party has gained the significant foothold among Dalits, OBCs, and others.
How is the BJP gearing up for the year-end Assembly elections in MP?
The BJP’s campaign has already begun. The party is launching 55-day long Janashirvad Yatra, which would be launched by the party chief Amit Shah on July 14 from Ujjain. It will connect with each of the Assembly constituency in the state during which beneficiaries of various schemes would join the Yatra. It would conclude with a massive rally in Bhopal. We expect that 1.82 crore Sambal cardholders, who benefit from schemes of state government, would join the Yatra. As many as 230 public meetings, 1000 Rath (chariot) meetings, would be organised in the course of the campaign.
There is a significant number of first-time voters, roughly estimated at around 70 lakhs, who may not have memories of the Congress government. Could they bring in the surprise elements in the elections?
We would be coming out with a massive outreach programme for the young voters on the theme of “Tab aur ab; Dawe nahi praman haen (Then and now; not claims, but actual achievements)”. Signed letters of the chief minister to the young voters in which proven achievements would be detailed would be hand-delivered with comparison of pre-2003 and 2017 Madhya Pradesh. It will compare 10 years of Digvijay Singh led Congress government and 13 years of Shivraj Singh Chouhan government.
Would the state poll outcome influence the 2019 Lok Sabha elections?
The BJP is approaching the state polls on the slogan that “Shivraj Ka jeetna jaroori hai kyunki Modi ko lana jaroori hai (Shivraj Has to win to elect Modi again in 2019).”
How manysitting MLAs would be denied tickets by the BJP?
Winnability would be the only factor during ticket distribution. Those who could win would get the nominations, and those who don’t stand to win would be denied tickets.