CHIEF MINISTER Shivraj Singh Chouhan neatly sidestepped the contentious issues of roads and power with humour and a counterattack while addressing a public meeting at Chegaon Makhan on Thursday afternoon while canvassing for BJP candidate Devendra Verma for the Pandhana by-elections.
The twin issues are proving to be an embarrassment for the ruling party which came to power on the slogan of providing good roads and adequate power to the people of the State.
Overall the condition of roads in Pandhana, which is a reserved constituency for Scheduled Castes, is pitiable. Save the road from Indore to Pandhana, which is very smooth, rutted or non-existent roads greet anyone wising to travel to any of the interior villages. Chouhan, perhaps, is well aware of the road condition for he chose to fly from one meeting spot to another in a helicopter, avoiding the roads where ever possible.
While speaking on the ticklish issue of roads, he looked towards BJP MP Nand Kumar Singh Chouhan and jokingly said, “Nandu Bhaiya told me that if the condition of roads does not improve, I won’t fight the next Parliamentary elections, but I told him that there is nothing to worry for I will improve the roads,” and even as the posse of ministers and party faithfuls laughed nervously, Chouhan added, “If only Nandu Bhaiya had told me of the road problems earlier, I would have improved matters.”
Clearly on a sticky wicket while focusing on the power situation, Chouhan counter-attacked by saying that the Congress party which had not added a single megawatt of power to the State in its 10-year rule had no right to question the present government. He then went on to enumerate the number of new power projects started during the BJP rule and the total
increase in the generation capacity.
He reiterated his oft-repeated claim that there will be no power crisis in the State after two years. He glossed over the fact that addition to generation capacity was due to projects started by the earlier Congress Government.
Chouhan said that he was in politics not for the lust of power, but to serve the people. By calling himself the son of a poor farmer who knew the travails of the debt-ridden farmer, he sought to strike a chord with the majority who had come to listen to him.
Chouhan said he understood the pains of the farmer and that is why he had reduced the rate of interest charged from farmers from 14 per cent to 7 per cent, lowering the price of power from 2.30 per unit to Rs 1.70 per unit for farmers, allowing insurance to be paid for crop damage at the Patwari level. In all these cases, the State would bear the burden of the subsidy, he said, adding that to take these decision he had to face a lot of opposition.
He also reminded them that even though the power bills had been waived by the earlier Digvijay Singh Government, his government was the one who paid it, Rs 1,783 crore in all, just to ensure that the MPEB did not send bill with delayed payment charges to the farmers. He also spoke on the various schemes for the welfare of women and girl child taken by the government to ensure that the girl was cherished as much as a boy.
On his bete noir Uma Bharti, he recounted a story of Raja Janak listening to a discourse of a Sadhu, and how even when news came that his city was burning Raja Janak did not get up from the discourse. “Raja Janak was a true Sadhu even though he was a king,” and left for the audience to form their opinion on Sadhvi Uma Bharti.
Among others, MP Nand Kumar Singh Chouhan, Khandwa MLA Hukum Singh Yadav, Ministers Vijay Shah, Rustam Singh and Gangaram Patel were present.