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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

‘If not Modi, they’ll back anyone… there is a BJP base… But not enough to win’

In the 2014 elections, the BJP had polled 31% of the votes. And they say they have a national mandate. Can they get the same 31% again? asks Kamal Nath.

Written by P Vaidyanathan Iyer |
May 1, 2019 12:39:30 am
assembly polls, election commission, madhya pradesh, corruption, madhya pradesh anti corruption watchdog, lokpal, lokayukta, up lokayukta, kamal nath, mp government, shivraj singh chauhan, rti act, madhya pradesh high court, anandiben patel, indian express news Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath. (Express file photo)

With the Congress having clawed its way to a win in Madhya Pradesh in December 2018, despite the BJP’s 15 years in power, more than just putting up a good performance in the Lok Sabha polls (the BJP had won 27 of 29 in 2014) is at stake for CM Kamal Nath. His son is making his poll debut from his bastion of Chhindwara, while Kamal Nath is himself contesting from an Assembly segment under it. Kamal Nath spoke to The Indian Express hours before boarding a flight from Bhopal to receive Congress chief Rahul Gandhi at Khajuraho:

You claim the Congress will triple its overall tally in the Lok Sabha elections. How do you see that happening?

In the 2014 elections, the BJP had polled 31% of the votes. And they say they have a national mandate. Can they get the same 31% again? That’s the first point. The second point is Mr Modi stands totally exposed. All his promises — Rs 15 lakh (in accounts), jobs, achche din — all that (turned out to be) a hoax. And that has a rebound effect. I am touring the state every day for the last one month. I see the sense on the ground, with a 40-year experience in electoral politics, that people are keeping quiet. There is a sense of not disenchantment alone, but anger. No voter wants to be thugged. And they (the BJP) are talking national security, nationalism! Elections have become very localised. Of course, every Indian is a nationalist… As if the country was unsafe earlier, when Rajiv Gandhi was PM, Manmohan Singh was PM, Indira Gandhi was PM. The most sordid terror attacks have happened under BJP governments. I was in Parliament when the attack (on the House) took place. When Kargil happened, whose government was it? Now, the Pulwama attack… the BJP should be apologetic about it… Instead, they are saying we did this strike. Until now, the country doesn’t know what kind of response it was.

But the Congress seems to be bothered about the PM’s national security narrative.

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We must remember that the armed forces were created by Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. The Sainik Schools, Military Academy, National Defence Academy… did Mr Modi build them?

Has the fielding of Pragya Singh Thakur by the BJP queered the pitch for the Congress?

She joined the BJP a day before filing nomination. The BJP wants to use her to send a message of division, of Hindutva. These are the cards they have left to play. And these are dangerous cards to play. They don’t care about dividing the country. They divided the RBI, the judiciary, the CBI. So it’s a mindset.

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Could Digvijaya Singh, the Congress candidate from Bhopal, have avoided sharing the stage where a book was launched stating that the RSS was behind the 26/11 Mumbai attack?

I don’t know what he said… What’s the narrative in Bhopal? It’s not development, not progress. They have shifted the narrative to arousing religious sentiments. How many people are going to fall for this?… She (Thakur) doesn’t have anything to say, she just says ‘Ram ke naam pey vote doh. Hindu ke naam pey vote doh (Give vote in the name of Ram, Hindu)’.

What, according to you, is the best-case scenario for the Congress in MP?

We should win 22 seats out of 29.

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But people seem to be choosing based on two different considerations, for the state, and the Centre?

I don’t see any Modi votes, people voting for Modi as they did in 2014. Eighty per cent of the people who voted for him are so disenchanted. There is a BJP base vote. If not Modi, they will support anyone from the party. Madhya Pradesh is a hardcore BJP state, L K Advani said it in his book, as the laboratory of Hindutva, of the RSS. There is a BJP base vote, but that is not enough to result in a seat.
Even in the Assembly polls though, the BJP vote share was higher.

But this vote share is total percentage. If you take three seats away, take away (former CM) Shivraj Singh’s seat… Somebody wins by 50,000 seats, if you add it to the total vote share, it gives you a wrong reading.

The Congress is seen as a party of dynasts? Your son Nakul is himself contesting.

The people of Chhindwara, who have voted for me for 40 years, they are the ones who said Nakul must contest. I was not pushing Nakul down their throats. If that was so, people wouldn’t vote (for him). Why should political parties be so concerned about dynasty as the media, because in the end, it is the people who are voting… What about Rajnath Singh, and so many others in the BJP?

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About the farm loan waiver, the refrain in Rajgarh seems to be that they haven’t received it, and are not sure if they will.

It has been 180 days since our government came to power. I had 75 days before the model code of conduct kicked in. Roughly, of the 50 lakh farmers for which I started the loan waiver, loans of 21 lakh have been waived… When a farmer sees ‘Uska ho gaya, mera nahin hua (His has happened, mine hasn’t)’, I tell them yours too will get done.

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First published on: 01-05-2019 at 12:39:30 am

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