Congress leader says the party is coming back to power in M.P., and there is no need to name a leader for the top post
Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh says the Congress will return to power in the State, but rules out his candidature for the post of Chief Minister
Will going to the polls without a chief ministerial face in Madhya Pradesh hurt the Congress’s chances?
The Congress has not declared its chief ministerial candidate. Even the BJP had not declared its candidate in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Maharashtra. So, you need not do that. In fact, in principle, I am against the idea that in a parliamentary democracy, you take away the rights of the elected representatives to choose their leader.
Are you open to being Chief Minister again if the Congress wins?
No. I have had my innings. Let others come.
The BJP is believed to have a well-oiled election machinery. How will the Congress match up to it?
I must confess that organisationally, they are much stronger than us. The Congress is not a cadre-based party. It is basically a movement. The Congress president also feels that we would like the Congress to be a mass-based party — a party out of a movement — rather than a cadre-based party. We are working in an organisational set-up, but ultimately it is the chosen candidate that matters. I have seen the candidate lists of both the Congress and the BJP, and I have been around Madhya Pradesh. There is a strong support for the Congress this time — much better than in 2013 or 2008. The Congress is coming back to power.
What are your main criticisms of the BJP government here?
In M.P., it is governance. No posting is done without a consideration. The whole system has become corrupt, be it recruitment, government purchase, e-tendering, award of contracts, supply of nutritious food for malnourished children, etc. They have compromised even the investigative agencies. If we form a government, we will set up a commission of inquiry on all this.
What do you think about the heat being generated over cow protection, Ram temple and Sabarimala?
The only agenda of the BJP is to communalise the polity of this country. For them, development and other things are only cosmetic in order to mislead the people. Every time they fight an election, they bring in Hindu-Muslim or India-Pakistan. I am told that on November 25, they are holding a big rally in Ayodhya. On 28th, there is polling in M.P. So, all the channels will be running [the news of] the rally for 24 hours. Now this is a blatant attempt to bring in the Ram temple issue in public domain three days before the election. In Sabarimala, it is an open secret that they have incited people.
Has there not been a tacit cultural turn towards Hinduism in the Congress, be it Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s temple visits or some issues figuring in your manifesto here?
There is no tacit shift. If you see the history of the Congress, if you see the speeches of Mahatma Gandhi, we are liberals and not communal.
We believe in Hindu-Muslim unity and communal harmony. We are not anti-religion. We are religious people but we respect the right of every citizen to choose his religion.
You have been viciously attacked on social media and have been almost labelled “anti-Hindu”. How do you respond to that?
I don’t accept the claim that the RSS represents the Hindus. I am a devout Hindu. There are nine temples in my home. I observe fast on Ekadashi. I am one of the few politicians in this country who has undertaken the Narmada Parikrama of 3,100 km.
But I attacked the RSS and BJP; more so when as Chief Minister, I found that fringe elements were being given training in firearms. So they made me the target. But I don’t mind if I am attacked. I have been misquoted, for example ‘Osama ji’.
That was a statement where I congratulated the U.S. forces for eliminating dreaded terrorist Osama Bin Laden. In sarcasm I said that I am surprised that ‘Osama ji’ was staying 250 metres from the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbotabad. That became something for them to attack me. They forgot what I had said earlier. I was the only one who criticised the Imam of Jama Masjid when he praised Osama Bin Laden; no one else did. I took up cudgels against Owaisi; against communal Muslims. I was the first Chief Minister to demand a ban on SIMI. But I also demanded a ban on the Bajrang Dal.
They say Hindus are under threat. For five centuries, we had Muslim rule. They could not destroy our Sanatan Dharma. For more than 150 years, we were ruled by Christians. Nothing happened to us.
How do you see the farm unrest in Madhya Pradesh last year?
The input costs have increased but the prices of agricultural commodities have not gone up in comparison to the input costs. Soya bean used to sell at ₹3,500-4,500 a quintal. It is now being sold at ₹2,600-2,700. It is not even being sold at ₹3,399, the MSP. They have now started the purchase of soya bean.