BJP out to tarnish my image: Tiwari
With Election Commission keeping a close tab on his home-turf in Mangawan constituency, Tiwari is now fighting many battles on the electoral front.india Updated: Nov 10, 2003 17:51 IST
You can take him out of Rewa, but you can’t take Rewa out of him. For veteran politician and Vidhan Sabha Speaker Sriniwas Tiwari, Vindhya region is the center of the universe. No wonder, he has gained a gradual stranglehold over the region with a streak of ruthlessness and canny manoeuvers, showing in the process for the first time how powerful the speaker of a Legislative Assembly can be. In the process, regional foes of the `White Tiger’ like the once-powerful Arjun Singh have been left with little toe-space. But the long years as Vidhan Sabha Speaker for this Socialist-turned-Congressman have also brought controversies in their wake. With Election Commission keeping a close tab on his home-turf in Mangawan constituency, Tiwari is now fighting many battles on the electoral front. He spoke to Ambreesh on the coming Assembly polls in general and Vindhya region in particular. Excerpts:
Q. What are the party’s prospects in the Vindhya region in the coming polls?
A. There’s no doubt that we will improve our tally over the performance of ’98. A lot of good work has been done in the region and we’re going to the people with an agenda of development. Our main rival BJP’s role has been a negative one. Shouting from rooftops doesn’t make any difference. Their criticism has always been unfounded and doesn’t cut much ice with the people. After all, voters are smart and can look after their own interests.
Q. Is the strategic understanding with the BSP going to benefit the Congress?
A. I’m not yet aware how many seats the BSP will contest in Vindhya region though Mayawati
has spoken about leaving 70 seats uncontested in the State. Since BSP has presence here, there’s bound to be some effect if we have an understanding with it. But we were always prepared to chart out our own course without factoring in the BSP.
Q. With the Samajwadi Party and other OBC dominated political parties like Apna Dal and Samanta Dal also flexing their muscles this time round; does it complicate the poll equations?
A. Samajwadi Party has managed to wean away some leaders like Arjun Singh’s nephew KK Singh from the party. They can help the SP corner some votes of course. But I doubt if the SP will be able to open its account in the region. As for others, they are fringe players and at best will have notional effect. Congress is still the dominant force in the region.
Q. But what about the picture at the State level? Surely issues like power crisis would dent the Congress.
A. See, power crisis is not an issue any more. The Government’s handling of the issue has been excellent. Take my word we’re again going to form the government in Madhya Pradesh. I say this not only because I’m a Congress leader but also because of the ground reality. For argument’s sake suppose in the worst-case scenario the Congress falls short by 10- 15 seats, do you see anyone else in a position to form a government? I’ll answer that myself. We’d still have others supporting us. That’s because BJP doesn’t have any natural ally in the State. Independents and other parties are our natural allies.
Q. But dissident activity seems to have surged in the Congress after announcement of party tickets. Do you fear large-scale sabotage from within?
A. The incident against our candidate in Deori where he nearly lost an eye in the attack is unprecedented and very unfortunate. However, disaffection on being denied ticket in itself isn’t new. Whether there’s going to be any sabotage, we’d only be able to know after the filing of nominations.
Q. The voters’ list issue in your constituency Mangawan has attracted a lot of controversy. Your comments?
A. I’d repeat what I’ve written to the Election Commission earlier. It’s an orchestrated campaign full of untruths by the BJP to tarnish my image and get the election in Mangawan deferred. The flurry of complaints is aimed at affecting my candidature and the forthcoming elections. Why doesn’t somebody ask the complainants what steps they took to file objections against the preliminary voter list published by the RO on behalf of the Commission and also whether any decision was rendered on these objections?
And whether any grievance has been taken before the higher fora as per the law? I welcome the EC’s inquiry into the electoral rolls but feel unfairly treated and judged. It hurts me that the Commission is being fed with false complaints by rivals to tarnish me.