What are your government’s achievements and how do you think the Congress will perform in the Lok Sabha elections in Madhya Pradesh?
We are doing very well. The people of the State have seen how the government has performed in the last 75 working days. It has been 115 days since our government was formed but the elections were announced and the Model Code of Conduct came into force. That is why I am saying we have had only 75 working days. The people have seen that loans to farmers have been waived or at least the process has started. Electricity bills have been halved. Now, if you consume 100 units of power the rate is only Rs 100 (it was `200 earlier). Pension is also being given. All these things have reached the people so we are doing fine.
In the recent Assembly elections the vote share between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress was the same. In fact, the BJP’s was marginally higher.
That is true, but things have changed since then. That is why I am saying the government has performed since we came to power and the people are satisfied.
Unscheduled power cuts have started in MP and the BJP is trying to make this into an election issue. Do you think this will adversely affect your party?
There have been some power breakdowns but they are being done by some people who have vested interests. There are some people who are cutting wires and causing short circuits. Some electricity department officials are involved in this and we have taken action against 600 such officials. But I must say this is not load shedding because of power shortage, these are breakdowns and tripping.
But they were not there during the previous government.
Yes, they were not there during the previous government, but we are taking action on that. These are being done deliberately by the BJP by cutting wires and causing short circuit.
The Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti, a tribal outfit of youths, had joined hands with your party in the Assembly elections, but they have fielded four candidates for the Lok Sabha elections. Do you think this will hurt your prospects?
They have put up candidates in Dhar, Ratlam, Khargone and Betul but the JAYS is in talks with us and I am confident that they will not do anything that will strengthen the hands of the BJP.
The Congress made fun of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he said selling pakodas was also a form of employment, but your own government has started programmes to train the youth for musical bands and even catching snakes.
When we started this ,we said they are training skill centres. Modi talked about selling pakodas, we are talking about training skill centres for (musical) bands. For the poorest of the poor who are educated only up to Class VII-VIII, this is a requirement and a tradition. So a lot of people come and want to be trained how to play the band or to be a snake charmer. What is wrong with that? They can start their own business, they can start their own band leading to self-employment.
What is your view on Sadhvi Pragya Thakur’s candidature from Bhopal?
She has no record of anything other than what she stands for, which is rabid Hindutva. It is clear that by fielding her, the BJP wants to create a communal divide and send a message of dividing society. That is why they have given her the (election) ticket. The people of Madhya Pradesh and Bhopal are intelligent enough to know what the BJP game is and that is to polarise the voters.
Are the main election issues nationalism and the Balakot airstrike or are they lack of jobs, the farm crisis and the Rafale deal?
The point is, the people of the country are waiting for Modi to give an account of his performance. The people have understood that Modi has politicised everything. First he must answer why the Pulwama suicide attack (in which over 40 CRPF personnel died) took place. What were the security measures he had taken? He must answer why there was an intelligence failure and that of his government.
A mahagathbandhan of all Opposition parties did not happen. Do you think Opposition unity is possible?
On the one hand there is Opposition unity and on the other, there is Opposition alliance. There is complete unity in defeating the BJP. There may not be any alliance but the objective is common. When there is a large number of parties which are opposed to the BJP, whatever be the Lok Sabha election results, they (the Opposition) will come together to see that the BJP is kept out.
The Congress could not even stitch up an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi.
That is why I said Opposition alliance and unity are two separate issues. That way, there is no alliance between the Trinamool Congress and the TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samithi), but both are opposed to the BJP and the objective is common. That is the most important thing and that is what matters. After the elections, everything will fall into place and the Opposition will come together.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister