If the former Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Ajit Jogi, and the Congress, known for their bitter rivalry, can finally come together, the ruling BJP will have to work harder for a victory in the Assembly elections, says Chief Minister Raman Singh. In an exclusive interview to Suvojit Bagchi, Mr. Singh discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the BJP in the State.
Distribution of subsidised food may help you complete a hat-trick, it is said. However, by 2008 poll, the scheme covered 60-65% of the households. Now it claimed to have touched the 90% mark and thus extended to 20-25% more families. Is it good enough for a victory?
True that in 2008 it covered 32-34 lakh families and gone up to 42 lakh in the next five years. But now, it is providing nutritional security, which was not covered earlier. We started with rice and salt and (now) providing pulses, chana etc. Secondly, the Public Distribution System has become more efficient and stopped leakages. Importantly, ration cards are issued only to women members of families. They started feeling important…it touched them emotionally and I believe, our [female] vote will increase by 5-7 %.
And the farmer’s bonus…
Nine lakh families are getting Rs. 270 per quintal of paddy in addition to the Minimum Support Price (MSP). This also has an impact.
A question about the former Chief Minister, Ajit Jogi. Mr. Jogi has negotiated with his party, Congress, and is perhaps happy about it. He is making almost no noise [against the Congress], unlike in other years. That must be worrying for the BJP?
When the electors would see Mr. Jogi’s face, memories of 2003 will come back. They will start thinking about the hell he created in Chhattisgarh and will automatically select their Chief Minister. More the Congress projects Jogi, more it will help us.
So, the Jogi-Congress pact is not a problem for you?
If they unite and contest the elections with honesty and integrity, we need to work harder [to win the elections]. But, they are evidently fighting at this stage.
But if they unite?
The margin of our victory will depend on this [unity].
In 2008, the BJP and the Congress got nearly equal seats in north Chhattisgarh. While the BJP needs to improve in the north, maximum mining has taken place in the area and people got displaced…will they vote for BJP?
There is not much displacement. Some are in Janjgir-Champa district, but even then the plants have not come up in residential areas. True that in some places farmland has been acquired, but huge compensation has been paid which empowered the people to buy new land. We are giving a fixed amount to those who have not got compensation.
Land acquisition through fake Gram Sabhas is an issue…
It may have happened in two or three villages… not in a huge area.
The central districts have 55 seats and here also the BJP and the Congress are nearly tied. The area is dominated by the Scheduled Castes and the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and both are unhappy with the BJP (for refusing to ramp up the percentage of reservation). In addition, the new party Swabhiman Manch, representing the OBCs, is expected to cut into the BJP’s votes?
In the last election, the third front [in Chhattisgarh] had about 6% votes with the BSP and others. They will get the same, more or less. While cutting our vote, they [the third front] will affect the vote-share of the Congress and thus will influence a few seats.
600 companies of Central paramilitary forces have been posted in south Chhattisgarh (in addition to the existing force) in the areas. It is unprecedented to have a contingent as big…
Administration asked for it…now, staying at booths for a week, then to arrange to take the polling parties to booths, supervise opening of roads, getting them back to base. We need security and no harm in having the forces.
What is your opinion about shifting of booths?
Voters should not walk more than 2-3 km.
But it is 15-20 kms in some places…
…that is the problem, some of the booths are too far away.
Will you start a fresh round of talk with naxals, if you win?
Discussion should never stop…
But will you be proactive?
With an open mind, I am telling you, that we will always be open to discussion.