Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan completes 10 years in the coveted chair. Though he appears to be firm in the saddle, the road ahead is tough for him as he has the herculean task of fulfilling the oft-repeated promise—turning Madhya Pradesh from a BIMARU state to a healthy state. Excerpts of an interview with him:
What does completing 10 years in office mean to you, particularly when you are about to break the record of former chief minister Digvijaya Singh on November 30?
I never thought I would become the chief minister. I didn’t have any administrative experience but since I was committed to people and knew about their difficulties I tried addressing the same. At the same time I focused on improving the infrastructure in the state. There were several welfare and development works done in the past 10 years. I am satisfied with the work I did.
Exactly 10 years ago you faced a rebellion from Uma Bharti when you were elected as BJP legislature party leader. Did those moments cross your mind today?
Those moments are past. It never crossed my mind as I didn’t have the time to think over it as I kept myself engaged with the task to better the lives of people and take the state on development path.
Your roadmap ahead?
The journey ahead includes creating skilled manpower in the state, spreading a network of cottage industries, lessening their dependence on farming, changing pattern of farming and adding food processing to it, improving the fields of health and education, making people of MP industrious so that they could be good entrepreneurs, improving further the scenario of malnutrition, IMR, MMR, ensuring housing for all etc.
High and low points in the past 10 years?
Tremendous growth in the fields of agriculture, women empowerment and welfare schemes for poor gives satisfaction to me. What I couldn’t do was improvement in the fields of health and education. We need to do a lot in the fields.
You are talking of developments but the state is facing financial and agrarian crises at the moment.
There is no financial crisis. In fact, we are revenue surplus state. But the agrarian crisis has forced us to manage about Rs 8000-9000 crore to provide relief to the farmers. That’s why we had to cut down on the budget of certain things.
You lost Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha seat bypoll despite party’s dependence on you.
This is not the first time we have lost elections. During my tenure there were 21 bypolls of which we won 14-15 and lost 5-6. Sometimes, defeat is good also for us. For, we can introspect, which wouldn’t be possible if we win.
Often there have been speculations about your relation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the party veteran LK Advani. Is it possible for you to maintain excellent relation with the two at the same time?
It’s absolutely possible. In the BJP there is no groupism. I respect everybody. I don’t use offensive language even against my rivals. Even if there is any conflict with Opposition leaders, I try maintaining relation with them.
What do you think of the legal battle with Opposition leaders?
I felt really bad about below-the-belt attacks against me and my family. But I don’t want to remember these episodes today. There is no personal rivalry from my side.
Your PM ambition?
I never had this ambition. I think I should do the work honestly given to me. The country has got an excellent PM in Modi ji. He should get 5 years more as 5 years’ time is not enough for an effective change.