‘We will come back to power on the basis of development’

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Photo: AP
Shivraj Singh Chouhan | 54| Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister
Photo: AP

Edited Excerpts

What makes you confident that the people of Madhya Pradesh will repose faith in you once again?
We will be elected back to power on the basis of development and public welfare. When the Congress was in power, they had turned MP into a BIMARU state. People have not forgotten those times when there was no electricity, water and roads. The BJP government has done work, which is visible to the public. We have rolled out several schemes for all sections of the society.

Last month, a PIL was filed in the high court, which cited cases of corruption against 11 serving and former ministers and 50 officials of the Civil Services being probed by the Lokayukta for the past eight years. The accused include Urban Development Minister Babulal Gaur, Medical Education Minister Anup Mishra and Cabinet Ministers Kailash Vijayvargiya, Laxmikant Sharma, Ajay Vishnoi and Jayant Mallayya. The court has asked the government to respond to these allegations. What is your stand on this case?
The Congress has nothing to show. That’s why they are hurling allegations. They can go to courts and file PILs. This is the only thing they can do.

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh openly called you ‘corrupt’ and dared you to file a defamation suit against him. He said he was willing to prove your corruption in court. How do you respond? After all, you did take Ajay Singh to court over a similar allegation?
I have already filed a defamation suit against a Congress leader. If I have to file another, I will do it. These people feel that if you tell a lie hundred times, it will become the truth. The public understands all this and so does Digvijaya Singh. If you ask him personally to keep a hand on his heart, he will say that Shivraj is a nice person. But these are just political allegations. Neither the public nor the Congress believes all that he says.

You talk of development and public welfare, but when you look at the other side — corruption — it can put any self-respecting government to shame.
We have confiscated the assets of eight corrupt officials. We review all cases periodically and take proper action. After all, investigations are going on. We are going after the corrupt. My government has taken and will take action against the corrupt.

The Opposition alleges that 50 percent of the schemes announced by your government are yet to take off.
Congress leaders are saying whatever they feel like. If they organise a rally, they have to say something. They can say whatever they feel like. The final decision lies with the public of MP.

Your government may claim many successes, but your record in attracting investments has been dismal. Since 2007, you have organised three investor summits and signed more than 1,500 MoUs worth Rs 11 lakh crore. But only investments worth only Rs 25,000 crore have become a reality.
Investments have not gone down; it has only increased. Yes, when MoUs are signed, there is a long procedure for clearances. All this takes time. This year, industries worth Rs 84,000 crore have started production. MoUs worth Rs 1.10 lakh crore have been finalised and construction work is going on. In a state where there was no industry, all big industries are present today. So much so that IT companies such as TCS and Infosys are also coming. In the coming days, MP will become a hub for textiles, automobiles and IT.

You surprised many by wearing a skull cap, an unusual show by a BJP leader. Uma Bharti tweeted that it was ‘cheap’ of you to do that. Aren’t you guilty of the same tokenism towards Muslims that the BJP has long accused the Congress of?
My wearing a skull cap is not surprising. It is not for the first time that I have worn such a cap. Even when I was not the chief minister, whenever I greeted people on Eid, they would offer me a cap and I would wear it. Don’t create a needless controversy out of it. I’m a staunch Hindu and believe in Bharatiya sanskriti. It also says that everyone should prosper, be happy and grow. Communal harmony and respect for all religions is in the soil of India.

There is a lot of chatter about your silent rivalry with Narendra Modi. Your Jan Ashirvad Yatra created a flutter when party posters carried no pictures of Modi. And you asked Sushma Swaraj to flag off the tour. What exactly is the status of your relationship with Modi?
All this is futile talk. At the Karyakarta Mahakumbh, the entire BJP leadership was here. Both Modi and (LK) Advani spoke there. I have nothing further to add to this.

Your track record is inevitably compared with that of Modi’s. Advani praised you saying Gujarat was already developed when Modi took charge but MP was not when you came to power. Do you think that Advani was trying to make a political point against Modi by praising you?
I’m not aware of that. But yes, Advaniji has often said that Narendrabhai has done good work and there has also been good work in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

If you win the Assembly election, do you think your stature will grow within the party? And if the situation arises, will you be in the race for the top job?
My larger role is to oversee the development of MP. I don’t see or think anything beyond this. If I can bring change to the 7.5 crore people of my state, then I will think that I have lived a good life.

Although the BJP had a 7 percent lead over the Congress in the 2008 Assembly election, the BSP ate away a sizeable 9 percent of the anti-BJP vote. Do you see any chance of a tie-up between the Congress and the BSP, which might threaten your chances?
We will have to wait and see. But I’m sure the BJP will win and form the government with a good margin.

What is your government doing to woo minorities?
I have never looked at minorities as a vote bank. We are all children of Mother India; at no point should the mother’s milk be split. I believe in welfare and development for all, but not for votes. This is the thinking of the BJP and this has come across in whatever we have done. All those who eyed us with suspicion are now confident that this government is ours; this chief minister is ours. This gives me great satisfaction.

ashhar@tehelka.com

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