By Prashant Sood and Sidhartha Dutta,
New Delhi : Newly-appointed Congress President in Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath says that it is not a practice in his party to declare a chief ministerial candidate in a poll-bound state and Rahul Gandhi will do so in the state, if the need is felt.
He also says that the people in Madhya Pradesh are angry with the “thuggery” of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government and the Congress is much better organised to defeat it in the assembly polls to be held later this year.
“Well, there is no doubt the time is short. But I am confident that we will be able to strengthen the party at the village level. This is a contest against the BJP’s organisational strength and their money power,” he said in an interview with IANS.
Kamal Nath, 71, who is MP from Chhindwara and has been elected to the Lok Sabha nine times, said that the decision about changes in the state unit should have been made “much earlier” in view of the coming elections but he was not going to look back and think why the decision was not made.
The former union minister, who was appointed Madhya Pradesh Congress chief on April 26, said he has no faction, has good relations with all leaders and does not have to strive to bring about factional unity.
Kamal Nath appeared to be keeping open the option of contestng the Assembly polls. “I have been fighting for 40 years. I am the longest serving MP.” Asked if party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia will contest, he said, “I don’t know”.
Asked about the party not declaring a chief ministerial candidate and if the appointment of Scindia as head of the Campaign Committee was a balancing act, he said: “Madhya Pradesh is a complex state and no one face can win you the election. You need several faces. And that’s what has been done.”
Asked if he would have liked the party to have declared a CM candidate, he said that the strategy varies from state to state.
“It is sometimes necessary, sometimes not necessary. Who did BJP have as a chief ministerial candidate in Uttar Pradesh? Who did they have their CM candidate in Uttarakhand. They never had a chief ministerial candidate. So, it depends,” he said.
On his earlier views in an interview that party should define in every state who the leader is, Kamal Nath said: “If a need is felt, the Congress President will declare one.”
Kamal Nath said his priorities as PCC chief will be to strengthen the party at the village level. “Election has become very localised. This we must understand.”
“Every section of society in MP is in distress, farmers, the youth, traders, the labourers, women. Never in the history of politics, has there been a situation where every section of society is against you. The people of Madhya Pradesh are simple and docile. They sometimes will accept being disappointed, but will not accept being thugged. The voters are feeling that they have been thugged,” he added.
Asked about the strategy to defeat the BJP with about seven months left for the polls, he said: “We have a strategy to strengthen the party at the grassroots level. There is a micro strategy which obviously is to be kept within our party.”
The Congress has lost the last three assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh to the BJP.
Kamal Nath alleged that all promises of BJP government have fallen flat.
“We are better organised this time and all the announcements and promises made by the BJP have fallen flat on their face. On the ground there is nothing. When every section of society is against them, then what is there,” he said.
“Organisationally we are better organised. Do you think we have been battling for this election for the last one year. It’s not that. We started much earlier maybe under a different PCC leadership. But everybody is working,” he added.
Answering a query about former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh and his role, he said: “Everybody is close with me, remember that. Make no mistake. Digvijay Singh has large organisational knowledge of the state. And he will need to be active. He has already announced that he is not for any post or position.”
Asked if wide acceptability was a reason for his appointment as PCC chief, Kamal Nath said, “Whatever the reason that Rahul Gandhi will tell you but the fact is this that I am one person who has very good relations with everybody. So for me it is not a challenge to bring unity to the party. I am fortunate that there is no need for me to do it. There already is unity.”
Kamal Nath said his contest is against the incumbent Chief Minister unless Prime Minister Narendra Modi turns it into one against him.
Asked if there were internal differences in the party with Scindia feeling that he has lost out, Kamal Nath said he did not think so.
He said Scindia was in Bhopal during a road show to mark fresh appointments in the state and they met every few days.
(Prashant Sood can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and Sidhartha Dutta at email@example.com)