BJP will emerge stronger in east, west and south: Shivraj Chouhan - Hindustan Times

BJP will emerge stronger in east, west and south: Shivraj Chouhan

May 23, 2024 09:55 PM IST

Former Madhya Pradesh CM and BJP national VP Shivraj Singh Chouhan speaks on various issues including 2024 elections, welfare schemes, and opposition criticism.

Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and national vice president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was in Jharkhand for campaigning, spoke to Vishal Kant over a host of issues, including those on the 2024 Lok Sabha elections results, his role after having served as the longest-serving CM of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Opposition’s jibe of BJP being a “washing machine” for tainted leaders, and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s remark of Amit Shah likely to be the next prime minister. Edited excerpts:

Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was in Jharkhand for campaigning (HT Photo)
Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was in Jharkhand for campaigning (HT Photo)

After elections in Madhya Pradesh, you are campaigning in other states as well. Which way is the election headed?

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People are also saying what we are saying, ‘Abki Baar 400 Paar’ for NDA. This is going to be a reality. In Madhya Pradesh, we will win all 29 seats. I toured across three seats in Jharkhand; the result will be one-sided. ‘400 Paar’ is not a mere slogan. We are set to emerge as the biggest party in the south. We will emerge stronger in the east, west, and south, be it Bengal, Odisha, Andhra, or Telangana.

Has this slogan backfired? The opposition is saying you want 400 to change the Constitution and end reservation. Is the BJP on the back foot?

No way are we on the back foot. The people of this country know that it is the Congress that has subverted the Constitution. Indira (Gandhi) Ji imposed an emergency in 1975, and all rights of citizens were suspended by her. I was sent to jail when I was 17. Today, the Constitution is in safe hands. The country trusts Narendra Modi ji. The Opposition is not finding any political ground. They are unable to give any fight, so they are trying to create confusion among the masses. But people know the truth.

The Labharthi scheme has been a major success for the BJP. Recently, we saw that in MP, where the Ladli Yojna was credited for winning an election that was otherwise considered difficult. But how long can such schemes be sustained?

We live in a welfare state. People’s welfare is our duty. The Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) said there are only four castes: women, farmers, youth, and the poor. It is our duty to ensure the welfare of these four groups. As the government, we need to provide all services to them. We all know how, in previous regimes, money never reached the beneficiaries. Now, it goes straight to their bank accounts, making a real impact on their lives. “Gareebi Hatao” was Congress’s slogan, but PM Modi has pulled 25 crore people above the poverty line. And the beneficiaries are now backing the BJP because this government has gone beyond words and changed their lives.

But what about economic viability? This seems to have set a sense of competition among parties about who can offer more to people in terms of direct material benefits. Congress has promised 8500 per month to all poor women and doubling the ration quota.

If someone says that with an eye on vote bank politics, then it’s wrong. Our opinion is all countrymen have equal rights over the country’s resources, including the poor. BJP’s guiding light has been Deendayal Upadhyaya’s concept of Antyodaya. The welfare and development of the last man standing is our duty. Therefore, several schemes are implemented to improve their lives. Giving homes and rations to the poor is not a freebie. And it’s not that these people do not pay taxes, even if indirectly.

The Congress-led alliance is making false promises. During the 2018 assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, they promised to give unemployment allowance, but it was never done. They promised a loan waiver, but that didn’t happen. Today, they are talking about giving 1 lakh. In MP, we had a budget of 3.2 lakh crore when I was CM. It would increase to 3.5 lakh crore this year. Out of that, we earmarked 16,000 crore for the Ladli Yojna. I didn’t do that at the cost of capital expenditure, which is spent on roads, infrastructure, and other development work. We also increased the capital expenditure. But Congress saying they would give 1 lakh in each account “Khatakhat” is a joke. They would never be able to do this. They are only saying this for votes.

There is a sizable population of tribals in Jharkhand as well as MP. The opposition is saying in their rallies that BJP would end their reservation. Is that a concern?

They are creating confusion, and I have confidence that the tribal community won’t fall into their trap.

After being CM for so long, now you are contesting a parliamentary election? In what role could we see Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the future? In the central government or the party? There are talks of you becoming the next party president as well.

As a BJP worker, we work for a bigger goal. If I can summarise that in one phrase, it would be ‘nation rebuilding’ — transforming Bharat into a powerful and glorious nation where people are happy. When we work with such goals, personal roles are not important. It’s the party that decides. The party directed me to be chief minister, and I held that post. Now, I have been directed to contest Lok Sabha. I am following it. Tomorrow, if they tell me to work only as an MP, I will do that. If it gives me any other responsibility, I will work for it.

As one of the senior most leaders of the party, what is your take on Kejriwal’s statement that Amit Shah would be the next PM and CM Yogi Adityanath would be removed in UP?

Kejriwal is a ‘Natwarlal’. Very cunningly, he raises a particular issue to create confusion. Look at the other side. I have been CM four times, MP five times, and MLA six times. I am currently the party vice president. In the past, I have been the national general secretary and national president of the youth wing. Earlier, I was also the general secretary and president of the MP state unit. After being CM for so long, should only I be getting a chance to hold that post? Now, someone else has been given that opportunity. What is wrong with that?

That logic stamps the assertion that change could be a possibility.

No, I didn’t say that. Kejriwal is saying that only to spread confusion. He has no credibility left. There isn’t anyone whom Kejriwal hasn’t cheated. Prashant Bhushan, Kumar Vishwas, Yogendra Yadav, Sazia Ilmi — the list is long. The recent case is of Swati Mailwal. Initially, Sanjay Singh said the CM is very serious and action will be taken. But Kejriwal never did anything. No action for Manish Sisodia or Satyendra Jain. But he is doing something for his PA. Why is he saving him? He is a very shrewd man. It has been his character to create confusion.

One major issue is the narrative around corruption. A major critique of BJP is that agencies slow down once any leader facing probe joins BJP. Is this not a double standard?

One thing is clear: no agency becomes lenient even if any individual joins the BJP. The probe continues. If someone believes in the party’s ideology and wants to serve people using the BJP’s platform, they are welcome.

But recently, Ajit Pawar got relief after he joined the NDA fold.

If nothing is found in the probe, then people will receive a clean chit.

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