Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Bhagel speaks to The Indian Express on updation of NPR, the Shaheen Bagh protests and his government’s move to stop pension to MISA detainees.
Your government is set to bring a resolution in Assembly against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). Many governments led by Opposition parties have already done that. Your party also talks about economic crisis and unemployment. Which is a bigger issue for mobilisation?
See, this NRC and all are not being done for the first time. Britishers had made a law — ARC or Asian register — in 1906. In 1907, Mahatma Gandhi spoke about civil disobedience for the first time. He said he will not sign in the register, neither will he give thumb impression, now they are bringing NRC. This is a British idea which they are following now. They were with the British during the Independence movement. They did not take part in the struggle. This is the same ideology. Secondly, the BJP does not have an economic vision which can be showcased before the country. There is Gandhi’s economic policy, Nehruvian economic policy, P V Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh’s economic policy. Rajiv Gandhi, too, had spoken about computers and creating job opportunities.these people don’t have a vision. They fight on the basis of religion – Ganga, cow, temple, mosque, Hindu, Muslim.they don’t know anything else.. Did they show any economic vision in the last six years? They don’t have any economic understanding.they are selling Navaratna PSUs set up by Nehru. They have taken money from ONGC, Coal India. You know the situation in the insurance sector.
So, shouldn’t the Congress be raising these issues which affect the common man directly. But you are raising CAA in a big way? How will the Congress benefit out of it politically?
The last term belonged to Narendra Modi. He did demonetisation, GST, surgical strikes and all. He travelled across the world and tried to establish himself as a global leader. The second term is of Amit Shah. And immediately after coming to power, he has done away with Article 370, 35A and has now brought CAA, NPR and then NRC, this is a big jolt to Modi’s image, which he had created at the global level after five years of hard work. Secondly, the biggest damage is to the people of India. NPR and NRC.He (Shah) has talked about the chronology and that it was part of their manifesto. They cannot go back and have gone ahead. Like what Duryodhan had told Lord Krishna when he had asked for at least five villages for Pandavas. Duryodhan said he will not even give land as much as the head of a needle. Amit Shah is talking the same language. He is not willing to back down even an inch. What will happen because of this? Every person will have to prove that he is an Indian.
Will you implement NPR updation?
Sawaal hi nahin uthta (It is out of the question). It cannot be done. How can it be done in a state which has 40 per cent of its people below the poverty line. This means majority of them do not have land and are illiterate, or their ancestors were illiterate. How will they prove their parents’ date of birth and place. You have voter ID, Aadhaar card, ration card, some will have electricity bills, driving license, some may even have passport.what more proof do you want?
How will you stop it?
We will have to stop it at every step. And where will those people who are not able to furnish proof go. Where will they be kept?…In Chhattisgarh, the 2011 Census could not be done properly in Naxal-affected areas.600 villages have become empty…How will they prove that they used to live in that village? Who will authenticate? The villages are empty. Some are in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana…how will they prove?
In the NDA meeting on Friday, Home Minister Amit Shah has reportedly said that the government will include a disclaimer in NPR forms, saying that questions related to date and place of birth of parents will be optional.
Why keep it optional? Remove it. Who is stopping you from carrying out Census? I don’t remember my mother’s date of birth. And if I don’t fill it, what will you do. And who will we believe? The Prime Minister or the Home Minister? Who is telling the truth and who is lying?
You are in Delhi where campaigning for the Assembly elections will end on February 6. And till now neither Sonia Gandhi nor Rahul Gandhi or any central leader has campaigned. It took you three months to organise a rally at Ramlila Maidan. How will the people take you seriously?
Who formed the government in Maharashtra?…we had fought. Amit Shah (BJP) took the NRC issue to Jharkhand. They were badly defeated. We formed the government. How can you say there is no Congress? How are we winning states? They are so active…even then they are losing. You (BJP) are in the government.you have captured mediahouses.you are shown everywhere…that does not mean others are not there. Earlier, we won Punjab and then Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan…they are shrinking.
Why didn’t Rahul or Priyanka go to Shaheen Bagh?
Which leader went to the houses of the victims? Even after Section 144 was imposed, only Priyanka Gandhi went. Sab log apne apne jagah morcha sambhale hue hain…Shaheen Bagh mein log kar rahe hain…sab log kar rahe hain. Everybody is doing what they can..Our party is also doing. There was a CWC meeting, rallies were taken out…Shaheen Bagh main jayenge tabi wo protest kehlayega, nahin jayenge toh nahin hoga aisa to nahin hai na. (It’s not that if we go to Shaheen Bagh, only then it will be called a protest). That is not a formula or criterion.
Your government has moved the Supreme Court challenging the legality of NIA Act. But it was brought in by the Congress government. Why are you going against your own government?
The way they are tweaking the Constitution, they are doing the same to laws. The Act was made with a pure intent but they are misusing it. The rights of the states cannot be snatched away. They are doing that.
So there were provisions in that Act which could be misused?
There were some grey areas. When a law is made, some grey areas always remain. Later, they are amended. Some things are added. There are some (grey) areas in this too. You cannot transfer cases to NIA at whim. And what are the results? NIA probed the Jeeram Ghati incident. Who has been arrested? Who was involved in the conspiracy? Clearly, it was a political-criminal conspiracy. But no one has been arrested. What happened in the NIA probe into Pulwama attack? It has been an year. How 350 kg of RDX reached there? In a high-security area and rammed into the van which was bullet-proofed. How did they know?…It means you are hiding something…
That is the question. I will not talk like Shankersinh Vaghela. He had said it was a BJP conspiracy. I am not levelling that allegation. But I will certainly say that kuch toh raazdaari hain, kuch toh parda hain.iske peeche kuch na kuch hua hain. Why not even a single person has been caught till date. It was such a big incident…40 jawans were killed. There is no report so far…
The central government has now given Elgar Parishad case to NIA. Will you advise your Maharashtra counterpart Uddhav Thackeray to implead in the case that your government had filed.
I will talk to him.
Will you talk to other Chief Ministers as well.
What was the reason behind your government’s decision to stop pension for MISA detainees? You accuse the BJP of taking politically-motivated decisions. In this case, the charge can be hurled at you.
How can MISA detainees be in the category of freedom fighters? By that logic, those Congressmen who were in jail along with Indira Gandhi…they too should be given pension. It is endless…this should end.
You all want Rahul Gandhi to take over as Congress president and he is running away. In a 135-year-old party, you are unable to find a leader?
We have a leader.
I mean, after Sonia Gandhi?
Yes, even after that, banenge woh. We all want him (to be president). It is our wish.
Will a non-Gandhi become Congress president?
There is nothing like a non-Gandhi has not become president. Look at the history. Don’t speak the language of the BJP. Since 1885, when the Congress was formed.look at the history.how many times a person from the Gandhi family and how many times a non-Gandhi has become the President. It will become clear…Losing an election is not a criteria. If there is one leader in the country who is acceptable to the Congressmen. it is Rahul Gandhi.
Is he willing?
Let the time come…you will get the answer.
Lastly, did you raise the NPR issue when you had a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah during the central zonal council in Raipur?
No, the agenda was different. The agenda was pre-decided. I demanded that permission be given to the state to make ethanol from paddy. The rate should also be fixed.The Centre says that if a state declares a bonus for foodgrains.the central government will limit the procurement for the central pool. So when you have said that.the foodgrain is ours, so leave it to us to decide how to use it. How can you stop that? who are you to decide? If we have to procure the rice, we have to pay. Then let us decide whether to make ethanol out of it or do some other value addition. But you decide the rate of ethanol.