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'Digvijay-controlled opposition is in disarray'


Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has hit the campaign trail, christened the `jan ashirwad yatra’, seeking a third term in the state scheduled to go to polls later this year. Madhya Pradesh is already in the grip of a high pitch electoral campaign – surprisingly the one who is making the most noise is the ruling party itself. Sharply aware of anti-incumbency – and despite the fact that the main opposition, Congress, is a badly divided house – Chauhan is taking no chances. The jan ashirwad yatra has a catchy humble note to it: `ashirwad ke hakdar, Shivraj aapke dwar’ (seeking your blessings, Shivraj at your door step). With this, he plans to visit all the 230 assembly constituencies. The BJP is happy with the initial response; Chauhan has been able to garner bigger crowds than Congress leader of opposition Ajay Singh and its party president Kantilal Bhuria. The large crowds are by no means guarantee of public support though, what with the state administration mired in cases of corruption, law and order and displacement issues. But Chauhan is taking the fight on a different plain by harping on his developmental schemes which he believes has made MP an ideal state. The Kanyadan scheme, Ladli Laxmi Yojna, Teerthdarshan plan and the Annapurna plan which provides wheat and salt at Re 1 and rice at Rs 2 for people below the poverty line are his land marks. Chauhan’s campaigning also has a personal touch. At street corners and road sides, he stops and talks to people, picking up their coarsely written applications for governmental action. In an exclusive interview to Raju Kumar, Chauhan says the public response to his campaign leaves him in no doubt that he is returning for a third time.
RAJU KUMAR | Issue Dated: November 30, -0001, New Delhi
Tags : Madhya Pradesh | 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Shivraj Singh Chauhan | Digvijay Singh | Congress | BJP |

You had taken out a similar mass contact programme before the assembly elections in 2008. Do you see any difference between then and now?
There is a big difference. Then I had completed three years in office and people decided to give me a chance.  This time, they have seen my work. If they are impressed, we will get a third chance to form a government.

What are the highlights of your yatra this time?
I believe I have the support of everyone, old people, children, women, Muslims, Dalits, all sections of society are showering their blessings on us. These were the traditional vote banks of the Congress which have been broken forever. I am not a personality but a common man, one of them. They recognize this. The whole state is one family. For example, there were some misunderstandings about Bhagwad Gita in Urdu books so Muslims came and expressed their objections. I have withdrawn the order. People had come to with me with complaints and I have duly obliged.

The opposition says that the ruling party is not prepared to face them after all what happened in the Vidhan Sabha.
The opposition has no issue to speak of. They are under the spell of D and company (Digvijay Singh) and all kinds of wild charges are being leveled against the government. They are frustrated because they are out of work. On the other hand, the government has done a lot; there is 24-hour electricity supply, irrigation has touched new heights, per capita income has gone up, girl students have been provided with house rent in the absence of hostels for women, farmers have benefited, depressed classes have been encouraged to enter the mainstream and there has been all round economic development.

Different regions of the state have different problems. How do you intend to solve them?
We have tried to attain a balance between the different regions. To develop educational infrastructure and health, different regions have been provided differently. Where there is agriculture, we have improved irrigation facilities, we have tried to empower tribals by focusing on the Forest Right Act; Sagar University now has a medical college. So a number of steps have been taken to improve the system.

At the national level, you are being compared to Narendra Modi.
I do not want to make comparisons. I am involved in developing my state while Gujarat too is developing.

If the national leadership of the BJP wants you to come to Delhi, will you oblige?
I will not leave Madhya Pradesh for another five years.

What are your plans for the next five years if you come to power?
Agriculture has developed but it has its limits. I intend to industrialise MP in the next five years. I will turn the state into a textile hub, a skill development centre, IT hub and agro industries.

But MP’s rail links are limited and it has no sea coast. How do you intend to establish connectivity?
We will use MP’s strategic location in the centre of the country. Any part of the country can be reached from here with ease. Investors will find themselves at home here. Surplus electricity is our plus point.

In terms of social development, MP is still very underdeveloped.
Health and education are two key areas where the state government has done a lot of good work. Poor people have been given food grains to meet demands of food security. We will see its impact on reducing the infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate.

Were you apprehensive about the reaction you get when you set out on your yatra and what is your feeling now?
I was never apprehensive and I remain very confident. The BJP will get a performance vote and the opposition is in complete disarray. 

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017