Priyanka Gandhi should have entered the Congress campaign earlier and the party’s message to voters did not “reach the people effectively,” said Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath the day after the party’s rout across the nation. Under pressure after losing all seats in his state except the one where his son was contesting from, Nath spoke to The Indian Express. Excerpts:
To what do you attribute the rout the Congress suffered in Madhya Pradesh?
An assessment will be made…I have not been in touch with Delhi yet.
But surely you must have your own assessment in place by now…
It was because the BJP’s election machinery was far stronger than ours. The message of Modi and the agenda of the BJP were delivered all across well in time by his people. But our message did not reach the people effectively. RSS workers were moving around the state six months before the elections. They had identified areas and subjects that they wanted highlighted.
You had launched initiatives like farm loan waivers soon after you became Chief Minister and the party launched its ‘Ab Hoga Nyay’ campaign too. Why didn’t these resonate with voters?
We could have started earlier. All this came in too late. And the problem was that people mixed up the ‘Nyay’ campaign with justice while the campaign actually meant to go beyond that. (Under Nyay, five crore poor people were expected to get Rs 72,000 annually).
Are you saying it was too vague to have become the campaign theme?
It was not vague but it should have come in earlier and there should have been a clearer political message.
Should the entry of Priyanka Gandhi also have come in earlier?
Very much so. She should have got far more exposure during the campaign and come into it much, much earlier.
What about Rahul Gandhi? There are some rumblings over the manner in which he has handled his Presidentship.
There is no question about all that. He is our leader and will remain so.
So you found it easier to defeat Shivraj Singh Chouhan in December but found it impossible to counter the Modi wave just six months later?
During the Assembly elections, one was fighting both but this time it was all about Modi becoming Prime Minister again.
Did the BJP beat the Congress in the game of election spend? Did you trace any incidents of unfair election expenses incurred by the BJP?
I don’t want to go down that route of whether they paid money unfairly or not. But yes they poured money into their campaign, much, much more money than we did.
How you explain the loss of the Guna and Bhopal seats? The fact that in such a short time Pragya Singh could defeat former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh?
It was just Hindutva, nothing else. Once people decide they are voting as Hindus they forget everything else.
The party cadres in MP would be demoralised after the Lok Sabha drubbing. How do you see their/party’s future?
Well, the election results were a surprise. This is not the result we expected so we have to see that we deliver on all the promises we made to the people of the state.