Will welcome Scindia's name if he's chosen CM candidate: Kamal Nath

Kamal Nath, newly appointed Congress President for Madhya Pradesh tells Shikha Shalini his party is fighting for the future of the state. Edited excerpts:

If the Congress comes to power in Madhya Pradesh, am I talking to the future chief minister of the state?

Who will be the future Chief Minister is not my priority and we should not focus on this. Today, the challenge is to keep Madhya Pradesh together. No farmer is happy with the state schemes of crop insurance, farmer suicides have been increased, women are feeling insecure, youth unemployment is at its peak. Let alone job creation jobs have actually been lost.

Traders are unhappy over GST and demonetisation. Every section of society is unhappy, discontented. Never has this happened in the state’s political history — that every class of people is unhappy. Today, the question is not who is becoming a leader or a chief minister: today, the question is the future of Madhya Pradesh.

If circumstances are against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), how can the Congress take advantage of it?

The people of Madhya Pradesh are straightforward. They may be poor but they are very sensible. The people of Madhya Pradesh are prepared, sometimes, to be disappointed. But they can never allow themselves to be cheated. We will tell the people of Madhya Pradesh how Bharatiya Janta Party has betrayed them in the last 15 years.

But issues like corruption and misrule against Shivraj Singh Chouhan have been raised earlier by the Congress in the assembly polls. On that occasion your tally of seats actually went down. In 2014, you got only 2 seats in the state…

At that time there was a wave of change against us. The new face — Narendra Modi — was in the forefront. Today, people have realised what Modiji’s real politics is. I hope the results will be different in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

What will be your strategy for the elections? Which concrete issues you will place before the people?

We cannot discuss the strategy right now but we are in the process of fine-tuning it. Primarily, our strategy is to strengthen the party organisation at the village level. One of our strongest campaigning points would be that the people of Madhya Pradesh have been deceived. What we are seeing is the politics of publicity stunts and sloganeering at its best. Farmers of the state are in great distress. Crop insurance scheme have been devastating where no farmer has got benefit of insurance but of course insurance companies have made huge profit. In the name of crop insurance farmers got a few rupees as compensation. They (the government) provide you the figures of farmers who benefitted from crop insurance but not details about how much they actually got under this scheme. Bhavanter scheme has been a failure. During Congress rule, farmers used to get minimum support price. But with a BJP  government at the helm, they are having to fight for this. The government can’t provide farmers the cost of production but what they promise to farmers is that they will compensate all the cost of the production plus  profit. The reality is that the assurances given by BJP have not been met. They remain only announcements.

During the UPA government, there was no attempt to strengthen the Congress cadre in Madhya Pradesh. Do you agree?

I believe our organisation was weak earlier but now it is strong and there is extensive coordination among leaders and party workers in the state. Our main fight is with the BJP organisation and its money power.

During the UPA government, many projects were announced particularly in Bundelkhand, but  the Congress could not take advantage of them. Now all project in the state are stalled. The achievement of the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh is its involvement in corruption. This is their only achievement.

Which one is the greater challenge for you: The BJP or internal strains in the Congress party?

I am fortunate that there is no challenge to the unity in the Congress. There is good coordination among leaders and cadre. I have a good relationship with everyone and there is no such challenge before me.

So do you deny any factionalism in the party? The party cadre is not strong in MP — as in most part of the country. What’s your opinion?

There is a perception of disunity among the senior leaders of the state but the reality is we are all together. I think this so called disunity is more in the media than on the ground. There is great enthusiasm in our cadre too. But it’s true that we will have to put our party cadre in order at the district and block level for its effective functioning.

The Congress has changed many state presidents, but no experiment was successful…

Whatever has happened is a matter of the past. Now, we will talk about the future and the future is bright.

Don’t you think the announcement of a Chief Ministerial candidate will give you an edge in the election?

The announcement of a CM candidate is important. If needed, Rahul Gandhi will decide who the candidate will be. But no name is fixed yet.

Can Jyotiraditya Scindia be the face of the Congress? 

I will back him, whoever it is.  I will welcome Scindiaji’s name if he is announced as the CM candidate. I have no objection at all. I have publicly said that I will support him. You must have read it.

So you are keeping yourself aloof from this CM race?

I am not interested in any position. My only objective is that Congress makes a comeback in Madhya Pradesh.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan says that during the election people come out of their “Tugalaqi palaces” and start campaigning. Don’t you think Congress does not shape and support leaders at the local level?

I have been representing that state for 37 years now, but if they still see me as an outsider, what can I say on this.

You come from the Mahakoshal region. How many seats will you get there?

I cannot predict for Mahakoshal alone. But I am confident that our party will get 150 seats in Madhya Pradesh.

Will Rahul Gandhi be able to forge a grand coalition against the BJP?

Rahul Gandhi will be strong face in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. All efforts are being made but we will see the nature of coalition emerge based on the circumstances at that time. When the BJP came in to power in 2014, it got 31 per cent votes. Despite this the BJP said they were the ones with the mandate. One can’t get claim a mandate with merely 31 per cent votes.

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