Don’t see any anti-incumbency in Madhya Pradesh: CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan
In an interview to HT, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan spoke about welfare schemes, farmers’ stir, anti-incumbency, and the poll challenge.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is set to face his toughest electoral battle in the upcoming assembly elections in the state. With three terms in office, and a seemingly united Congress as his principal opponent, Chouhan is on a statewide yatra, directly reaching out to the people. In an interview to Kumar Uttam -- partly a conversation during his yatra and partly written responses – Chouhan spoke about welfare schemes, farmers’ stir, anti-incumbency, and the poll challenge. Edited excerpts:
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been in power for 15 years. Is anti-incumbency working against the party and against you as chief minister?
I don’t see any anti-incumbency in the state as our government has been continuously working to fulfil its promises. The public is witness to our journey of creating a developed state from the Bimaru state (a reference to four ailing states -- Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh – as defined in the 1980s) we inherited from the misrule of the Congress in 2003.
The overwhelming response to the Jan Ashirwad Yatra is proof of this. Wherever I am going, people from all walks of life are turning out in large numbers to shower their affection and blessings on me. A recent survey showed that we are going to win the elections for the fourth consecutive time with a thumping majority.
This is the third election that you will face as chief minister. How different is 2018 from 2013 and 2008?
Each election is different. In 2008 and 2013, I was asking voters to give me another chance to complete the infrastructure work I had embarked upon and take the state out of the mess the Congress had left it in. In 2018, I can proudly say that we have fulfilled all our promises and created a state at par with the top developed states of the country. Now we are going to the voters to seek suggestions to create a ‘Naya MP’ of their dreams. We will create a new MP and focus on improving the quality of life of our people.
In the last 15 years, the state has witnessed development in every sector like power, agriculture, infrastructure, education, IT, and others. Madhya Pradesh has 24×7 power supply -- we have pledged to completely electrify all the villages of the state by October 2, 2018. For five years in a row, Madhya Pradesh has won the Krishi Karman Award, and we are the fastest growing agricultural state in India today. We are attracting many IT giants, such as TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) and Infosys. The state is ranked seventh in terms of ‘ease of doing business’ in India. It has received 16.4% of total investments in 2018, second only to Maharashtra.
We are also fulfilling Mahatama Gandhi’s dream of a Swachch Bharat where Indore and Bhopal have been awarded as the first and second cleanest cities of India for two years in a row.
There have been reports of a protest at some places during your yatra. Why are these happening?
Seeing the success of the yatra, the Opposition has become rattled and has been employing these dirty tricks. The protest was orchestrated by the Congress. They haven’t attacked me, but the very fabric of MP. The people who have been arrested are all Congress office-bearers and workers. Through this action, the Opposition has already accepted defeat.
The anti-reservation and pro-reservation stir has gained momentum in Madhya Pradesh. What’s your opinion?
Madhya Pradesh is known as ‘shanti ka tapoo’ (island of peace). I request the people to participate in the relentless journey of development and ensure peace in our state, and maintain harmony, brotherhood and cooperation. ‘Sabki sewa, sabka sath, sabka vikas’ (everyone’s service, everyone’s support, everyone’s development) is my goal.
MP has been witnessing a major farmers’ agitation. More than 1,300 farmers committed suicide in 2016. The state registered a double-digit growth in farm. Why is there such a contradiction?
Farmer suicides is a serious issue, it can’t be politicised or looked at in isolation. When I assumed office, agriculture reported a negative growth rate. I realised that agriculture is the backbone of our economy -- more than two-thirds of the population is dependent on it and we can’t succeed without fixing agriculture. We have increased the land under irrigation from 750,000 hectares to 4 million hectares with a plan to double it to 8 million hectares.
We started Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana to work as a shield for farmers and ensure them against price risk. We bought onions last year at R8 per kg when prices hit rock bottom. In the last year alone, we have provided benefits worth R33,000 crore to farmers under various schemes. We are providing a Protsahan Rashi of 265 and 800 per quintal on wheat and moong this year. Modi ji has announced a historical increase in MSP (minimum support price) for crops for this year which is based on providing a cost plus 50% profit to farmers.
The only major issue the farmers are facing today in MP is the bumper production of crops and nothing else. Our PM has promised to double the farmer’s income by 2022 and I assure you that MP will be the first state to achieve this.
The real farmer doesn’t go out to agitate. Most of the agitations are staged by the Opposition to disturb the peace of the state. In fact, we didn’t see any disruption of farm supplies, nor did we witness any kind of agitation during the bandh called by some farmers’ unions recently. We have also introduced first of its kind Krishak Udyami Yojana for the children of farmers to encourage them to take up entrepreneurial ventures and diversify the source of income of their families.
How do you see the Congress as a challenge?
The people in the Congress have been fighting each other. This internal conflict of the party came out in public many times. There are many groups of various leaders in the MP Congress and the party is in complete disarray. Every other day, you hear of their state in-charge getting beaten up by supporters of one or the other group. I have even requested our home minister to speak with him and provide him additional security if needed. They don’t have any appropriate plan about the development of Madhya Pradesh. They have no clear vision for the people of the state and I assure you that we will come back with thumping majority. We are getting victories in every state. I think we should replace the phrase from ‘Congrees Mukt Bharat’ to ‘BJP Yukt Bharat’.
But the Congress seems more united this time.
I have heard there are social media and poster wars going on between (Jyotiraditya) Scindia-ji’s and Kamal Nath ji’s supporters. The Congress has also systematically sidelined Digvijay (Singh) ji, Ajay Singh, et cetera. This is their internal matter, but also if you look at them, they haven’t said anything concrete about the road map for the development of the state or people. Instead, they have been making personal attacks on me. Since they come from a lineage of kings and businessmen, their arrogance is visible.
Will an alliance between the Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and others impact the polls?
The Congress is trying to form an alliance with the BSP. It shows that they have accepted that they cannot defeat the BJP alone. They are trying to do caste politics and consolidate Dalit votes behind them. They don’t realise that the community is solidly behind us due to the work done under the various social sector schemes. What did the Congress do for them except using them as a vote bank? We don’t consider this alliance a threat.
You mentioned welfare schemes. The state has a debt of R1.87 lakh crore. How will you fund these ambitious schemes?
We are in a proper shape to withstand any monetary overload of the schemes that have been rolled out. We have spent significant capital resources on building world-class infrastructure in the state. We are now past this phase and assets will just require maintenance as we go ahead freeing up resources for social welfare schemes. The fiscal deficit in our budget for 2018-19 is within the prescribed 3.25% limit of the Madhya Pradesh Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2005. Also, Madhya Pradesh is one among the few states that have been able to meet deficit targets year after year.
First Published: Sep 10, 2018 07:25:33