Former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh is confident of a BJP win in the upcoming Assembly elections. In an interview with Aditi Tandon at Raipur, the BJP national vice-president talks at length about the party’s poll prospects. Excerpts:
How is the BJP positioned in these Assembly elections?
The BJP will form the next government with a clear majority, gaining across Bastar, Sarguja and plain areas.
What are your major poll planks against the Congress?
We have three major issues. Firstly, of 36 promises the Congress made in 2018 ‘Jan Ghoshna Patra’, 19 are still unmet, including 10 lakh jobs and regularisation of two lakh daily wagers. Secondly, they have halted the development we initiated in 15 years. We built 30,000 km of roads, 28,000 primary schools. They are not even paying for repairs. The third major issue is of scams of over Rs 15,000 crore in five years. The ED has reported that Rs 700 crore were taken as cuts in subsidy.
This time we will make sure we use every possible weapon against the Congress in the poll battlefield... the BJP is winning even in Bastar and Sarguja where it was zero earlier. There is a complete turnaround this time.
Are you worried about the Congress’ farm loan waiver announcement?
There is a counter to everything. This time we are poll-ready and will make sure we use every possible weapon against the Congress in the poll battlefield. Wait for our manifesto. It will be out in three to four days.
Do you see the Congress gaining from its pro-farmer policies?
They did benefit from the farm loan waiver in 2018, but the same thing will not help them again. The Congress gave more bonus to paddy farmers due to which the BJP suffered. We will address this issue in our manifesto.
Why has the party not projected you as the CM face in the elections?
Even in 2003, 2008 and 2013, the BJP did not project Raman Singh as its CM face. The decision was taken by the legislature party after polls. Even the Congress has not projected Bhupesh Baghel as its CM candidate.
The Congress says central agencies are acting as political tools.
When the king himself is selling liquor illegally, indulging in betting, what is to be done? In the Mahadev App scam, the CM did nothing and the ED had to step in. There is Rs 525 crore coal scam. They changed the process of coal despatch order from online to offline and started taking money. The Director who changed the policy has been in jail for seven months. With so much evidence, how can the ED remain silent?
You lost all 12 seats in Naxal-hit Bastar last time. What are the prospects now?
The atmosphere is turning for the better. Now we are in a position to win eight out of 12 seats there. There is a strong undercurrent in our favour which is visible in villages.
Why do you think the BJP will gain in Bastar and Sarguja this time?
In Sarjuga, the development work has halted due to the CM’s differences with TS Singhdeo, erstwhile royal of the area. Why should you take your revenge on the region? Bastar and Sarguja have been insulted in the last five years.
You were seen as a populist CM. Have freebies harmed Chhattisgarh?
These interventions have had a financial load on the government, but Chhattisgarh has a lot of financial capacity. Chhattisgarh is high on production of steel, cement, power. We have a 24 per cent share of the total national production in core sectors. Chhattisgarh is not a financially weak state. Welfare schemes do have an effect on development.
Yet the BJP is veering towards the freebies culture of Congress.
On some issues, where we feel whatever is essential needs to be done, though we don’t fully agree with their policy.
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