A day after the Congress ended 15 years of BJP rule in Madhya Pradesh and immersed itself in talks on who should be its Chief Minister, Kamal Nath, state Congress president and frontrunner for the top job, told The Indian Express that “we will campaign against the kind of GST he (Prime Minister) has brought in”.
Excerpts from an interview:
Did you think of the assembly election like a semi-final before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls?
No, I did not think of it like a semi-final. It was inevitable…we ended 15 years of misrule of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government. We had seen the resentment against the government build up in every section of society. The defeat had to happen.
To what do you attribute the very narrow margin of victory in the state? Did you expect the fight for Madhya Pradesh to be such a neck-and-neck finish?
That was because of the organisational might of the BJP and the money power they used. The victory margin was also narrow because the Vindhya region let us down. It was in this region that the organisational might of the BJP was at its peak and our preparedness was not good. In a fiercely contested election, the organisational capacity can prove to be very crucial.
Any other pushback factors?
We were pushed back by the massive publicity campaign launched by the BJP and the state government. Huge budgets were used and the media was part of this lavish spending.
Did the very long counting day have its moments of anxiety for you?
Yes, there were some anxious moments. The counting took long because of the new rules coming into play. Then there were some disputed rounds of counting and it all ended at 3 am.
Any attempt at foul play?
All I can say is that all efforts were made to influence the returning officers.
What will be your priorities now? For instance, you had recently tweeted that the number of people living below the poverty line has increased sharply in Madhya Pradesh, so will the fiscal state of affairs be top priority?
I am worried about the fiscal health of Madhya Pradesh and we will have to do some innovative out-of-the box thinking on how resources can be raised for the state. We will have to do something new since there has been such a drain on resources.
You have been Union Commerce Minister. What are the economic policies of the Modi government that you feel would be key to the 2019 general election campaign?
We will expose the Prime Minister, both at the state and national level. For instance, we will campaign against the kind of GST he has brought in. And the mishandling of demonetisation which has badly hit small businessmen and traders. There is clear lack of confidence in him which is visible. Plus, people are seeing that the CBI is now divided, the RBI is divided, the entire society has been divided by the Modi government.
The pre-assembly election alliance with the BSP did not work out but today both parties reached out for government formation in Bhopal. Will this pave the way for a Congress-BSP alliance for 2019?
We do want a firm national alliance with other parties who want the BJP to be ousted. What we must remember is that in the 2014 elections, while the BJP got a large number of seats, their vote share was only 31%. They must be the only party in the world in such a predicament. So what is the mandate they are boasting about?