Thirty two per cent reservation in the State for tribals has not been put in place, five tribal seats in the Assembly have been de-reserved, and land has been acquired in Fifth Schedule areas using guns — these are just a few of the complaints against the incumbent Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh
Nandkumar Sai, former president of the Bharatiya Janata Party in undivided Madhya Pradesh and a four-time Member of Parliament, has been in the news recently for questioning Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh’s policies. In an interview with The Hindu, Mr. Sai raised many such questions about the State leadership and answered a few.
‘Why should there be a non-tribal Chief Minister in a tribal State,’ you asked recently…
Chhattisgarh belongs to tribal people. It has 32-35 per cent tribal population, even though the entire population in Bastar was not enumerated properly. If it was done, there would have been one crore tribals [out of a population of 2.5 crore]. It is also a backward State so I suggested Chhattisgarh’s leadership should also vest with a tribal person.
If the community does not develop — educationally, socially, politically — then what is the point of having a State that attends to tribal interests? Look at Bastar… [Chief Minister Raman Singh] [has] not been able to protect people and property. Problems can only be addressed if the [tribal] community is taken into confidence and tribals can only be taken into confidence if they have a chief [minister] from their community.
Do you feel upper caste people are ‘taking over’ this State?
I ask, how many tribals have left the State? They were kept in 47 relief camps [during anti-Maoist Salwa Judum movement] where many of them died. Significantly, whoever is dying is a tribal. The men in police, the boys in Salwa Judum, the cadres among naxals – all are tribals. A system has been devised that whosoever dies (in conflict) is a tribal. Mineral is the only big resource of this land and the tribals have no right over those.
And a tribal Chief Minister will solve all the problems?
[In] Surguja, [the] situation was worse than Bastar, it has 11 Assembly constituencies, Bastar has 12. [I] took the ordinary people into confidence and cleared the area [of naxals].
What is the Chief Minister doing wrong?
I can tell you of so many instances. Thirty two per cent reservation in the State [for tribals] has not been put in place, five tribal seats in Assembly have been de-reserved, and land has been acquired in Fifth Schedule areas using guns. Several elected bodies like Panchayats, [city] Panchayats, municipal Corporations which were earlier in reserved categories have been de-reserved.
Perhaps you are saying all this under instruction from the Chief Minister himself, so that you and thus BJP get the tribal vote…
I have told this to our senior leaders as well; [to] Advaniji, Rajnath Singhji. I said, when tribals were dissatisfied with the Congress, [that] party went out of power. Now, tribals are slowly getting educated and realising that if they are not engaged at every level then there is absolutely no point in having a separate State. Our leader Deendayal Upadhyaya said, “if the State has to move forward it has to ensure security for the weakest person.” [If not] how do you fight the naxals? That is precisely why naxals are so close to the tribals.
But your party is believed to predominantly serve the interest of the business community, the miners. Tribals stay in the same areas where mineral deposits are located. To access mineral wealth, industries are routinely displacing tribals. There seems to be a serious conflict of interest between your party’s policies and the constituency you represent, the indigenous population?
We do not need business people here. Tribals can mine [themselves]. We do not need banias [the business community] for that. It is wrong to suggest the BJP serves the business community. Again, I will refer to Deendayal Upadhyaya, who used to talk about tribal upliftment. This is also the Sangh Pariwar’s (RSS) thought.
Do you have any support inside the party?
Who will be stupid enough to say these things without support? People in New Delhi are also aware of the situation. Policies are wrong.
‘Policies are wrong?’
Take Raman Singh’s policy of food grain distribution. Now even the Union government is following this policy. [Government] is actually making people dysfunctional. They will not be able to work at all and will use the food grain to buy alcohol, which is exactly what they are doing. How long will you provide them with food grain — 10, 20, 50 years? By that time the generation will disappear by not working. How are you making them more educated, industrious and self-sufficient by doing this?
Can you imagine yourself as the Chief Minister of the State?
Party will decide. But woman’s character and man’s destiny could not be gauged by gods, how could we — the lesser mortals? (laughs)