‘People kept in dark as BJP decided fate of J-K’: Bhupesh Baghel
“The BJP has just implemented its poll manifesto. But the way it was done is wrong,” said Bhupesh Baghel.Updated: Aug 20, 2019 00:20 IST
Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Sunday lashed out at the Congress over its stand on the abrogation of Constitution’s Article 370 that gave Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) a special status while backing the Centre over the issue and the bifurcation of the state into two union territories. Other Congress leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia and Milind Deora, too, have supported the abrogation. Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel spoke to Hindustan Times about the differences within the Congress over the issue, the party’s leadership, Maoism and investments in his state. Edited excerpts:
Why are not Congress leaders speaking with one voice over the issue?
…difference of opinion takes place in all parties. Is there no difference of opinion with the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party]? What is the big deal if some Congress leaders express their opinions? The party has publicly given its line on J&K. Even before the BJP’s birth when the Jana Sangh was functioning; they had been demanding that Article 370 should be removed. The BJP has just implemented its poll manifesto. But the way it was done is wrong.
Why are you saying this?
Earlier states have been divided too. My state Chhattisgarh was carved out of Madhya Pradesh. Jharkhand and Telangana were also formed. But these states were born after the respective state assemblies cleared proposals in this regard. But whom did you [the Centre] consult in the case of J&K? No one. People were kept in the dark when the BJP decided their fate. The government took a decision about their lives but they did not know anything about it. Is this democracy?
What is your personal opinion on the government’s move?
There cannot be any personal opinion. Whatever is the party’s stand is my stand as well. I have been to Srinagar, Amarnath, and Vaishno Devi [shrines] as a tourist. I have not been there to understand their problems. So, whatever the party has stated publicly, it is my line too.
But I have a question for the government. Removal of Article 370 was a part of their agenda before the 2014 [national] elections as well. Now that you have fulfilled this promise, what about your promise to give every poor person Rs 15 lakh in their bank accounts. When are you going to fulfil that promise?
Sonia Gandhi is back at the helm of the Congress after Rahul Gandhi stepped down as the party chief. Why does the Congress have to rely on the Nehru-Gandhi family for leadership?
If you look at Congress’s history, there have been many party presidents from outside the Nehru-Gandhi family. It is not that there is a dearth of leaders in Congress. But is there any other family which has sacrificed more than the Gandhi family? Had Sonia Gandhi wanted, she could have become the Prime Minister but she favoured Manmohan Singh for the top post for 10 years. It is natural that Congress workers have an emotional attachment to the family that has sacrificed so much for the nation. They also support and fight for the workers. They are our strength, not weakness. No one has blamed the leadership for the defeat in the 2019 [national] election.
You are also seeking fresh investments in Chhattisgarh. But do you think investors will feel secure in a state which is also the hub of Maoist activities?
Maoists are confined to a particular area. It is not as if Maoists are everywhere in my state. They are in the areas bordering Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. But in cities such as Jagdalpur or Kanker and its surrounding areas, there is no Maoist presence. We have been able to push them back. If you want to do a business related to bamboo or maize, you can get easy access to raw materials. If you set up a power plant where coal is available, obviously it will be more profitable for you and people will get jobs. I do not want big industries because we have seen how 5,000 acres of land was acquired for a Tata project but nothing came up and people lost their land and job prospects. There is no paucity of land in Chhattisgarh. Less than 200 people live per sq metre in Chhattisgarh.
Are you also seeking investments because Chhattisgarh is also a mineral-rich state?
Wherever there are minerals, industries will automatically come. Where there is coal, people will automatically invest. There is no need to invite them. We want non-polluting sectors such as Information Technology. We are looking for small industries. You can come to build even bicycles. I want such investments that will benefit all sides; the farmers, investors and the job-seekers and it does not require displacement of settlements.