Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been helming the Madhya Pradesh government for over a decade now. HT spoke to him a day before he completed 11 years as its chief minister. Excerpts from the interview:
How would you rate your 11-year-long journey as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh?
It was good. The first day of becoming the chief minister, I never thought anything big had happened. Even today, I can’t bring myself to believe the position is anything very significant. In the back of my mind, I have always tried to think of ways to better the lives of my 7.5-crore family.
Did you expect to serve as the chief minister for such a long time?
When I took over this position, I never expected anything like this. It’s only through continued work that I have reached this stage today.
What would you say were your biggest successes in the last 11 years?
The state of the infrastructure in Madhya Pradesh – especially roads, power connectivity and water supply – was in real bad shape when I took over. Now, we are a power-surplus state, and are doing very well in terms of agriculture. As far as the social sector is concerned, we have tried to empower women as well as the poor.
Please cite some major challenges you faced in your tenure.
Initially, the biggest challenge was to arrange funds for development projects. But I soon realised that if there is genuine keenness to do something good, budget is never a problem. We made roads in PPP mode. The second challenge concerned implementation of the projects, and we took several steps to remedy this. The third challenge was to unite the people in taking the development process forward. We launched campaign Aao banaye Madhya Pradesh, and launched a state anthem to unite the people with the government. In a democracy, the government cannot work without support from the people.
You were virtually airdropped into the chief minister’s shoes in 2005, with no experience in administering a state. Who guided you initially?
‘Mai aaj tak apna guru khoj raha hun (Even now, I am looking for my mentor).’ If you are sincere about discharging your duties, your inner self will inspire you to take important decisions. You will also learn new things. I always wanted to work for the people, and that’s how I managed to sail through the last 11 years. I always drew inspiration from Swami Vivekananda.
Who do you think was the best chief minister before you?
That’s a difficult question. Each had different personalities with diverse priorities at varied phases of time. It will be difficult to rate them. I think all the chief ministers contributed immensely during their time, in their own capacities.
You are called mama (maternal uncle) by the people. How did you become a mama?
In 2006, we decided to launch the Laadli Laxmi Yojona to empower the girl child in Madhya Pradesh. The state government would deposit 30,000 into the bank account of each family that had a girl child, linking it with their education and marriage. Soon, people began saying that I played the role of a mama for poor girls in the state. I am proud to be called Shivraj mama.
What are the issues that troubled you in the last 11 years?
I feel bad when I work so hard for the people, but still get blamed for the wrong reasons. The world of politics has turned really murky. Now, if anyone cannot challenge you electorally, they try to malign your image. What can one do if this is the current trend in politics? However, the truth will always prevail in the end.
How long would you like to continue in politics?
I will serve the people of Madhya Pradesh until I’m still healthy enough to do so.