BHOPAL: The BJP appears to have fallen back on former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to steer the saffron ship in Madhya Pradesh amid a Congress bid to turn political waters turbulent for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
That Chouhan is arguably a perfect foil to the Congress troika of Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia can be gauged from ‘Mama’ (as Chouhan is popularly called) logging in over 125 rallies, pulling crowd and workers alike.
“I began taking part in electoral politics in 1984. I know the pulse of the people,” Chouhan told this newspaper during an interaction. “I’ve addressed 125 rallies and over a dozen roadshows. I am not yearning for positions in New Delhi. I’ve opted for the path of struggle. My party, too, has decided this course for me,” said Chouhan, making it clear that he’s not Delhi-bound in the event of Modi bagging a second term.
Dropping hints of impending political upheavals in the state, Chouhan said, “We could have stalled the Congress from forming government (in MP). We had polled more votes. Yet, we stepped back since the Congress won more seats. But people now are in misery. The sooner the Kamal Nath government goes, the better it will be. Circumstances will emerge and we’ll suitably respond.”
He claimed that every vote cast in the state will be a verdict for re-election of Modi and of disapproval of Kamal Nath.
Chouhan, known for his oratory and emotional connect with the people, argued that the central issue in the Lok Sabha elections is the question of leadership that could restore India’s glory in the world. “People here remember Sudhakar (Lance Naik whose head was chopped off on Line of Control with Pakistan in 2013). All that his wife wanted was for the Indian government to ensure Pakistan returned Sudhakar’s head so that she could have the last darshan (pay obeisance). But the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government couldn’t fulfill her wish. Modi, in contrast, brought (Wing Commander) Abhinandan Warthaman back unharmed within 48 hours,” the BJP national vice president argued.
The former CM counted elimination of all members of the group of Burhan Wani and network of SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India) to assert that India’s war against terrorism is in a decisive stage.
He combatively rejected the charge of the BJP compromising the issue of terrorism by fielding Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, accused in the Malegaon blast case, from against Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh. “We never linked terrorism with any religion. Yet, the Congress-led UPA hatched a conspiracy alleging ‘Hindu terrorism’ and implicated Thakur without any evidence… We shudder at the scale of atrocities meted out to a Hindu daughter,” Chouhan said.
‘India needs strong PM’
Chouhan said India is seeing campaign on lines of a Presidential election. “The PM should be a mass leader, unlike Manmohan Singh who never fought an election...The post should be held by one who knows pulse of the people and is acquainted with their aspirations,” the former MP Chief Minister said.
‘Our focus on development agenda’
Chouhan dismissed suggestions that the BJP poll campaign is focused on the issue of nationalism. “We dwell upon issue of nationalism just for five minutes, with focus on development agenda of the party. In MP, the Kamal Nath government has undone pro-farmer initiatives, besides the state having been taken back to the era of power cuts that even the CM had to cast his vote in flash-light,” he said.