Declaring that he has "no regrets" for his public criticism of Home Minister P. Chidambaram's counter-Maoist strategy focussing "only on the law and order angle", Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh says he had conveyed his concerns to the "right quarters" in the Congress leadership before penning his comments.
"I wrote the article (criticising Chidambaram) because I felt strongly on the issue of the ordinary people living in the Maoist-affected areas," Digvijay Singh told the news agency.
"You cannot change the ground situation unless you win over the people in the Maoist-hit areas. You cannot solve the problems with bullets. We have to win the hearts and minds of the people in those areas and wean away them from the influence of the extremists," Singh, 63, who was chief minister of Madhya Pradesh from 1993-2003, said.
In an article published in the Economic Times April 14, Singh had strongly criticised Chidambaram's anti-Maoist strategy. He said Chidambaram's approach was a "narrow sectarian view, treating it as a purely law and order problem".
The article came eight days after Maoist rebels had shot dead 75 troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and a state police constable in Dantewada in Chattisgarh April 6.
Following the publication of the article, party spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi had said that "Singh should have raised his opinion in the party fora".
The Congress leader responded by saying: "I had raised the issue at the right quarters in the party before."
According to Singh, his raising the Maoist issue with the Congress high command had the desired impact. "A change is seen in the official policy already."
"Congress states like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have been more successful in controlling the Maoist challenge than those ruled by other parties," he claimed. According to him, the situation in Chattisgarh is worse "primarily because of the wrong policies" of the state government".
He claimed his views on the Maoist challenge and the strategies to face them have been consistent. "I have first hand knowledge of the situation," the Congress leader said.
"Next bad cases are Jharkhand and Orissa."
Singh had written in the controversial article: "In this (Maoist) issue, I have differed with Chidambaram's strategy that does not take into consideration the people living in the affected areas, who ultimately matter. He is treating it as a purely law and order problem without taking into consideration the issues that affect the tribals. When I raised these issues with him, he said it was not his responsibility."
"I strongly believe it is his (Chidambaram's) responsibiltiy to take a holistic view of the issue and put it up to the cabinet rather than opt for a narrow sectarian view."
Singh further wrote: "I have been a victim of his (Chidambaram's) intellectual arrogance many times."