There can’t be a national alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the support of small regional groups, said Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh who feels that any opposition grouping will collapse due to inherent contradictions. He also said that the loss of a couple of parliamentary bypolls will not make any difference to the Bharatiya Janata Party winning next year’s Lok Sabha elections. “Once upon a time it was Indira (Gandhi) versus all and now it is Modiji versus all. This is happening because of Modiji’s rising popularity. Some smaller parties can polarise in an effort to stop him but they would not succeed. They cannot emerge victorious against Modiji’s popularity,” Singh, the longest serving Chief Minister of the BJP, told IANS in an interview.
He also wondered that since the Congress is not in power in many states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu how are they dreaming of returning to power in 2019. “Where would they get support from. With support of small regional groups, there cannot be a national alternative. These parties are coming together out of fear of Modiji’s popularity. See the past, they can never remain united.
“How long can (West Bengal Chief Minister) Mamata Banerjee be a friend of Congress at national level and enemy at state level. This is not going to sustain,” he said. The Chief Minister, who is ruling the state since 2003, said the loss of a couple of parliamentary bypolls after winning five states cannot be called anti-Modi sentiment.
“We won those states where we were in a position of nothing. Although we lost Gorakhphur and Phulpur bypolls, we won all the major polls in the last four years. Bypoll results are impromptu reaction of people. It is not going to impact Modiji’s effect anyhow. It was because of Modiji we are ruling in most states. We have the maximum number of MPs and MLAs,” he said. Claiming that there was no anti-incumbency against his government, Singh said even if it exists somewhere he would address it before the Assembly polls due later this year.
“Anti-incumbency is basically opposition to the system. When people’s expectations are not met and their grievances are not addressed, people raise their voice against the system. When such things are not addressed they take a big shape. Anti-incumbency can be beaten by development. We face the anti-incumbency through Lok Suraj Abhiyan and Vikas Yatra. This is the real spirit of gram swaraj when no one has grievances against the system,” he said.
Expressing confidence about returning to power again, he said being a national party the Congress was the main challenger for the BJP but added that Ajit Jogi, the former Chief Minister and President of the newly-formed Chhattisgarh Janata Congress (CJS), could play a major role in the polls. “There would be an impact of Ajit Jogi’s presence. He cannot be rated weak. If there would be a division in Congress’s vote share, we will benefit directly or indirectly.”
Asked whether a tactical alliance of the Congress with Jogi can hurt his prospects in the elections, the Chief Minister said: “We have faced them when they contested jointly as well as when they fought separately. But when they contest separately, we are benefited more.”
Listing his government’s major achievements, he said that in the last 15 years his government’s focus was to provide for the basic needs of the people. “When I assumed office in 2003 there was no power, no roads and no drinking water. It was a complete mess and there was a lack of infrastructure. People were forced to migrate to other parts of the country. There were starvation deaths.
“Today you can see there is power supply in 100 per cent households. We have created an extensive road network throughout the state. We brought an end to starvation deaths by launching food security scheme. We succeeded in making Chhattisgarh a malnutrition free state.
“We are providing Rs 50,000 to each individual under a health scheme like smart card. We have provided homes to six lakh families, gas cylinders to 35 lakh households. We formed a law for skill upgradation of workers. In fact, throughout my tenure we did our best to provide a prosperous life to our citizens,” he said.
Born on October 15, 1952 in Kawardha, Singh joined the Bharatiya Jan Sangh as a youth member and was the president of the youth wing in Kawardha from 1976-77. From a councillor of Kawardha municipality he progressed to become an MLA, MP and then union minister in the government of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee before being sent to the state as party president.
Asked about his role in national politics, Singh, an ayurvedic doctor-turned-politician, said that Chhattisgarh has always been his priority but he will abide by any party decision including if it decides to send him to the Centre.
“My present target is to form BJP government in Chhattisgarh for the fourth consecutive tenure. I have dedicated myself for this. If my priority would be asked, I will keep Chhattisgarh at top. But, if the party organisation takes any decision I will abide by it. What situation emerges ahead, I can’t say today but at present my priority is Chhattisgarh,” he told IANS during his Lok Suraj Abhiyan.