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We have one-man show in MP: Patwa

Today Madhya Pradesh is a decentralised Government run by one person. A complete one-man show. Digvijay is a CM without a department, but all decisions are taken by him.

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

Sunder Lal Patwa, twice chief minister of the State, was once the backbone of the BJP. Along with Kushabhau Thakre and others, he is credited with raising the BJP (then Jan Sangh) in MP from zilch. The 79-year old RSS volunteer would go down in State’s history as one of the tough chief ministers remembered for his non-interfering administrative style. If Digvijay Singh’s hearty laugh(s) is his USP, Patwa’s reticence was his forte.

Patwa Government was sacked in the aftermath of Ayodhya mosque demolition in December 1992 thus making him the last BJP chief minister to have ruled the State. President’s rule was clamped soon after and the next year’s polls saw the Congress coming back to power which it holds till date. Patwa went down memory lane as he spoke to Abhilash Khandekar.

Q. As a former CM, how do you assess the 10-year long stint of your immediate successor Digvijay Singh?

A. He is talking about 97 per cent fulfilment of his promises. I think he should have straight away said he had achieved cent per cent target set in the manifesto. Why even leave that three per cent of promises? Why I say this is because people can’t see his tall claims.

When I left the Government, the loan burden was about Rs 5,000 crore—most of which I had inherited from the Congress. Now it has reached Rs 30-32,000 crore. Can he explain the mammoth Rs 27,000 crore increase to the people. This is more than the State’s budget. Where has the money gone? Can he show us roads? Can he show us irrigation projects? Where is the power? Is Digvijay in a position to show one project worth Rs 2,000-5,000 crore ? I am amazed where the exchequer money has disappeared.

Q. But he says that a lot has been done in the health and education sector. The State has finally shed its BIMARU tag.

A. I can’t help but laugh at this. Even after 10 years if you don’t work in the basic health and education fields then why were you voted for. More importantly, we will have to check his claims by going to the rural areas. How educated are our youths; what the standard of education in MP is will have to be tested at the ground level. I remember him saying that he does not believe the official figures.

Q. The Congress blames the BJP for its incompetence to run a Government. Congress slogan is ‘we know how to govern’. Your comments.

A. Tell me who is running the Government in Delhi? Is it easy to run a 24-party coalition so successfully and yet give a direction to the country? The PM Sadak Yojana was started when I was the Union Rural Development Minister. We allotted Rs 700 crore to MP for quality roads. The BJP has set a role model before the country in many areas. In MP, BJP ruled for two years and 10 months and here’s a Congress Government of 10 years. People will have to judge the two different models that are before them. I feel awkward in blowing my own trumpet but the fact is BJP Government was indeed a people-oriented, honest and fair Government.

Q. What were the specialities of your Government?

A. We worked for the last man of the society and the most down-trodden man of the society (sabse niche aur sabse picche ke admi ke liye). The BJP worked for the social and economic uplift of them and to provide them respect. We waived farmers’ loans worth Rs 714 crore without Central aid and paid the amount to the Bank. It was not like the waiver of electricity bills of today. We gave land rights to the tribals living on ‘forest land’. I took the then Prime Minister V P Singh to Bastar to show him the physical status of the ‘forest land’ on which cultivation was taking place. He was convinced and gave permission for the pattas. I did not need a Dalit Agenda to show the uplift of the Dalits. We had many schemes for them under implementation when we lost power.

Let me tell you that as a rule, I used to have a meal, when on tour, with a poor scheduled caste family to know their problems. Once I ate at a sweeper’s home in Ujjain. On industrial front, we promoted Bastar in a big way but the likes of B D Sharmas — used by the Congress — opposed industrialisation. I had got three big private sector steel plants for the area but the Congress opposed them. They wanted Bastar to remain backward forever.

Q. Then why did you lose the elections in 1993?

A. Traditionally, we have a two-party system. Victory and defeat are separated by just about 2-3 per cent votes and we lost narrowly. Secondly, we were over-confident then. In retrospect, I think the BJP could not capitalise upon my Government’s achievement and as a true Opposition party of years, looked for its own Government’s shortcomings. The job of Opposition Congress was done by my own party men. For the first time I am sharing this openly today, that within the party too there was a competition among leaders. Some ills of power afflicted us too.

Q. People talk about your administrative toughness and skills. Some officers now fondly recall your tenure.

A. I used to inspire bureaucrats to work for the people. Mine was a non-interfering approach unlike today when the CM keeps talking to the collectors and SPs daily in the morning. What does he talk and why does he talk daily? In my times, people would not throng the CM House unnecessarily because I used to direct them to the collectors. A CM is not supposed to work as a collector or a tehsildar. There is a dignity of office. Ours was a truly decentralised Government.

Today it is a decentralised Government run by one person. A complete one-man show. Digvijay is a CM without a department but all decisions are taken by him. What a mockery of democracy? There is an excessive interference in the functioning of the bureaucracy. I give you an interesting example: Indore’s IGP Surjeet Singh once called me to request that in the next three days I should not go to Indore where a major law and order step was planned. He asked me to talk to him on the fourth day. It was the famous Bombay Bazar operation, which the police undertook to cleanse Bala Beg’s den. I am talking about the liberty my officers enjoyed during my times.

Q. Digvijay Singh has accused your party of not helping MP in the forest pattas matter. You said you had taken V P Singh to Bastar for the same.

A. I was Union Minister then and now an MP; He never came to me for help. He is blaming Vajpayeeji. The NDA is there for the past four years. What happened to Digvijay when Narasimha Rao was the PM and then Congress allies were in power in Delhi. In 10 years, he has raised the issue only when elections are close. He does not want a solution to the issue but wants to play politics.

Q. What about your party? Seems it is changing its old character fast and going the Congress way?

A. Look, an entire generation of leadership has changed. New faces are emerging. In old times, we used to travel on bicycles in search of candidates for polls. Today there is a plethora of candidates, hence the problem. Times have changed but I feel we are much better than many others. The ordinary worker is still disciplined. Some indiscipline creeps in at times. Ultimately, we are a party of human beings and not a party of Gods.

Q. How many seats would the BJP get considering the narrow margin you are talking about and the presence of so many dissidents and so many parties?

A. We are forming the Government that is for sure. The seats are not important. We would have majority because there is anger against the present Congress rule.

First Published: Nov 17, 2003 17:39 IST