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Being Congress? ally has come in handy: Nagpure

While sharing power with the Congress we are damaging our vote bank. Our followers preferred independent identity and to some extent the party would suffer but we had little choice, says Doman Singh Nagpure.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2003 17:39 IST
Abhilash Khandekar
Abhilash Khandekar

He is a little known minister and a still lesser known politician in most parts of the State. But this Balaghat politician’s sheer presence in the Digvijay Singh cabinet for the past five years had made the Congress government in MP technically a coalition government. Meet Doman Singh Nagpure, alias Baba Patel, the president of the Republic Party of India’s MP unit and the Backwards Classes minister.

He is Lodhi by caste, a reason why Digvijay Singh desperately needed him. After 1998, this time too the Congress has left one seat for the RPI. The four-time MLA from Khairlanji constituency spoke to Abhilash Khandekar on his party and the RPI’s `marriage of convenience’ with the Congress.

Q. What were your compulsions for an electoral pact with the Congress at the cost of erosion of party’s vote bank?

A. The first talk with Congress at the all India level took place in 1996 and accordingly we had an understanding with the Congress in 1998 for the Assembly elections. Ours is a small party with presence in some districts and a modest following. The `alliance’ with Congress worked well in that we could deny even a single seat to BJP in Balaghat (out of eight, six are with Congress, one with the RPI and one with the JD). So it has been extended this year. My national president R S Gawai wanted it to be so. The alliance was forged to stop the BJP, as we believe in secular politics like the Congress.

Q. But what about your committed vote bank? Don’t you face an identity crisis while traveling with the Congress?

A. Well, let me face this. While sharing power with the Congress we are damaging our vote bank. Our followers preferred independent identity and to some extent the party would suffer but we had little choice. But let me clarify here that votes is not everything; we will create a new vote bank when time comes. Being in power helps. Some of our workers are benefited in the process. In Bhopal, for example, the CM has appointed one of our senior office-bearers as the vice-chairman of the BDA; in the BMC we have an alderman and so on. In Balaghat the officers listen to our genuine grievances. They expedite our works.

Q. Your party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have a common vote bank, common ideology and common idol in Baba Saheb Ambedkar. But the BSP is growing in MP and the RPI is not. Why?

A. Baba Saheb Ambedkar was the main spirit behind the RPI’s foundation in Maharashtra in 1956 but the BSP is encashing upon his name now although his real legacy is the RPI. Because of a division in the RPI, we got weakened and they prospered. I must admit that due to lack of coordination among ourselves we had to suffer.

Q. The BSP now stands divided. Will it benefit you in any way?

A. The BSP will disintegrate further because of their opportunism. By now people have come to know that they can’t govern. The UP experience has exposed them that they are not competent. They are selfish and clever too. Also, the BSP has vitiated the atmosphere in the country. Caste tensions are of their making. Slowly you will see the old RPI voter would come back to us for which we would have to work hard. In Maharashtra we are a formidable force.

Q. Caste tensions are growing in MP too. The Cabinet of which you are a member decided to allot grazing land to the Dalits resulting in many caste wars. How do you react to that?

A. The Government’s aim was to help the poor landless people. A large number of rich people had cornered huge chunks of land in the State over the years, which is being taken away from them to be given to the Dalits under a policy. What’s wrong in it? The Dalit agenda has its own benefits.

Q. You were the only odd man out in the Cabinet. Did the cabinet listen to your views seriously?

A. Chief Minister Digvijay Singh was always sympathetic to my suggestions. I can’t reveal many things of the Cabinet meetings but let me tell you my opinions were taken with due seriousness and decisions were taken accordingly. I made some valuable observations about the charnoi land; about creamy layer benefits and they were all incorporated in the Government policies.

Q. You are from Balaghat where the Naxalites killed a Cabinet colleague of yours. How serious is the problem in your area after bifurcation of the State and the initiatives of the CM?

A. The Naxalite movement is undergoing a change very fast. Many new outfits of criminals are joining the Naxalites. Terrorist groups too are joining them and that’s the cause of worry for us. As you know it is a national problem and the solution can’t be found in isolation. My personal opinion is that the power of love will have to be exercised while dealing with them. The Naxalites will have to be brought to the mainstream. We are watching the outcome of Digvijay Singh’s experiment by which a police post was removed from Son Gudda village as was promised. So far it is a peaceful area.

Q. You are a Lodhi by caste, which has a sizeable population in parts of MP. Would the Lodhi vote go en bloc to the BJP due to Uma Bharti?

A. The Lodhi votes are scattered all over MP. They are in Mandla, Balaghat, Sagar, Shivpuri, Panna, Narsinghpur, Vidisha and Dhar. The Lodhis were voting both for the Congress and the BJP. But let me disclose this to you, it was only after Digvijay Singh included me and Diwan Chandrabhan Singh in the Cabinet, that the BJP thought about projecting Uma Bharti. They know the influence of the Lodhi caste.

First Published: Nov 17, 2003 17:39 IST