Buoyed by the hat-trick in Chhattisgarh, chief minister Raman Singh feels the victory has offered him the opportunity to advance his agenda on development, counter the Maoists and restore peace. Excerpts from his first interview, with HT, after taking oath:
What worked for the BJP in Chhattisgarh? Raman effect or Modi factor?
It's for you (the media) and the people to judge. I see the result as an endorsement of our government’s policies, schemes and welfare programmes. Narendra Modi being most popular political leader in the country is always a bonus.
But the tribals do not seem impressed with your development measures.
It is wrong to generalise. We lost some seats in Bastar, but the tribals in north Sarguja and Raigarh region reaffirmed faith in the BJP. The loss in Bastar needs a thorough introspection.
Shouldn't you have performed better, as the BJP did in MP and Rajasthan, on the lines predicted by exit/opinion polls?The comparison with bigger states is unrealistic, since the margin of gap will always be less in a small state like Chhattisgarh. The area has been Congress bastion since the days of undivided Madhya Pradesh. But the performance of my government has ensured the Congress remains out of power.
Five prominent ministers lost, while your party was banking your image.
There appears to be anti-incumbency against MLAs as several sitting legislators from both parties lost. Wherever we changed the face of sitting MLAs, we got good results. Our performance was not bad, it’s just one less seat than the previous tally.
Your priorities now?
Continuity and change. I would like to consolidate the ongoing welfare schemes with better plans and undertake changes in the interest of people. I formally handed over our manifesto to the chief secretary today so that an action plan with clearly defined and measurable milestones can be worked out.
Your next move on the Maoist front?
We will consolidate the gains already made. Our two-pronged strategy of rapid development and strong action will continue. God willing, with a BJP government certain to come at the Centre, I am sure this tenure would see a substantive progress. Modi’s stand on countering Maoists remains very clear.
You took the oath alone. Are you overcautious about selecting your team?
We have to select the best possibile in the given scenario.
Did the Congress fail to recognise anti-incumbency factor against its MLAs?
More than the state Congress, it was the defeat of Rahul Gandhi, who said he was 'personally' fighting for this election and had sent observers, selected his team and picked candidates.
What do you feel about the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Pary in Delhi?
It is too early to say anything about the party on the basis of its performance in the national capital.
Your next political mission?
To secure all 11 Lok Sabha seats for the BJP from Chhattisgarh.