‘Pro-incumbency in Madhya Pradesh,’ says Jyotiraditya, heaps praise on Shivraj for state’s development – ThePrint – Select

Scindia’s comment on CM Chouhan’s tenure gains significance as it comes at a time when most BJP leaders have focused on Centre’s contribution in the run up to this month’s assembly elections in the state.

The state’s 230 assembly constituencies go to the polls on 17 November and votes will be counted on 3 December.

Three years after he quit the Congress, bringing down the Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh, Scindia is busy campaigning for the BJP — touring the length and breadth of the state, especially the Gwalior-Chambal region considered to be his family’s stronghold.

ThePrint caught up with Scindia Friday, while he was on his way to address a rally in Shahdol where he exuded confidence about winning the coming assembly elections. The Union minister spoke to ThePrint on the MP polls, the Congress, his rumoured rivalry with Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar, the achievements of the state government and a host of other issues.

Also read: What Congress and BJP posters in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh say and hide

‘Congress to be blamed’

“The Congress ruled in Madhya Pradesh for 55 years. What was the result till 2003? Madhya Pradesh was at the bottom of the statistics of every social indicator, every infrastructure indicator,” he said, accusing the Congress of ruining the state.

“The BJP government has raised Madhya Pradesh from the mires of degradation to one of the best states in terms of all social indicators across the board in the country. Whether you look at agricultural growth, whether you look at infrastructure growth, whether you look at MMR (maternal mortality rate), IMR (infant mortality rate)  across the board and our schemes and our government have been people-focused, unlike that of the Congress that have been personality- and corruption-focused,” he said.

The Union minister also took on Congress leader Kamal Nath and accused him of “denigrating” the Other Backward Classes (OBC) community by insulting INDIA bloc ally and SP leader Akhilesh Yadav.

“The Congress has raised (the OBC issue) in such a big way when Kamal Nath ji was asked about Akhilesh Yadav, he said, ‘Akhilesh Bakhilesh ji ki baat mat karo,’ this is the respect that the Congress has towards the OBC community. Akhilesh may be a leader of a rival opposition party for me, he’s still a very respected backward caste name. And if you denigrate the OBC in this manner, the community will also lash back at you. I’m very confident,” he said.

‘BJP focused on women’

While most BJP leaders have downplayed the anti-incumbency factor in the state, Scindia went a step further as saying there was “pro-incumbency”. “There is no anti-incumbency in Madhya Pradesh. In fact, I would go so far as to venture that there is a pro-incumbency here…,” Scindia said.

Heaping praises on the BJP government in the state, he said this is not the first time that the BJP or CM Chouhan have focused on women.

“It has been a consistent theme throughout his tenure to bring the IMR down. It started with a Lakshmi scheme to prevent infanticide that has resulted in a lowering of the IMR [infant mortality rate] rate…once the girls start going to school and perform well, they are given a scooty. The third step (is) when a girl gets married, leaves her maternal home to start a new life. The state government is present in that wedding through the Kanyadaan Yojana and the fourth, and a logical extension of that is the Laadli Benha scheme [for financial assistance],” he said, elaborating on state government schemes.

Countering the Congress criticism of the Laadli scheme, Scindia said if it was not so great “why would Mr Kamal Nath come out with a Rs 1,500 scheme (for women)?”

On the Congress constantly terming him a betrayer, Scindia defended his decision to quit the party by pointing out that he only led a ‘war against corruption’.

“That’s the Congress’s outlook if they call a war against corruption, a war against betrayal of promises a betrayal…let them, I hand that to them and let them be comfortable calling me that,” he said.

“What I have…my conscience and my heart is clear that in the (current) three years of the Chouhan government, not only has he been able to combat the Covid pandemic, we worked closely together…whether it was the issue of vaccines, whether it was the issue of getting, supplying oxygen, getting the C 130 J Hercules aircraft to land in different parts of Madhya Pradesh to take the oxygen tankers… fill them up, bring them back by train…or whether it is the development of Madhya Pradesh,” he said.

Explaining the strategy of the BJP to field members of Parliament (MPs) in assembly elections, indicating he wasn’t in the race for CMship, Scindia said the party leadership wanted leaders who have their “fortresses (to) continue to guard them and continue to ensure the winnability there”. The BJP has fielded seven sitting MPs, including three Central ministers in the MP elections.

“There are many seats in which the Congress has fortresses. You got to prepare an attack on those seats. And if you look at the first two lists that we’ve declared, we’ve taken the battle to the Congress, the seats in which it has always felt that it is supreme. That’s where we have fielded the MPs and the Union ministers,” he said.

“Therefore, the Congress today is vulnerable in its areas of strength and that gives us that propulsion to ensure that we not only win the seats that we have always maintained, but also those where the Congress has been strong,” he added.

‘No leader, all workers in BJP’

Scindia said that in the BJP, no one is a leader and asked the Congress to “worry about its own house”. “In the BJP, there is nothing called inter-rivalry. No one is a leader, no one is the one who turns an election. Everyone is a worker and we all work together,” he said.

He also downplayed the rumoured rivalry between him and cabinet colleague Narendra Singh Tomar who is contesting the assembly polls from the state.

“Narendra Singh and I have had a very long relationship extending way back to when he was an MLA and I was an MP and he’s had a relationship with my father, with my grandmother. So, let the Congress worry about their own house,” he added.

Scindia meets people as he campaigns for the BJP ahead of the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections | Praveen Jain | ThePrint

In 2022, the Congress won the local body elections in Gwalior after almost 55 years and many had termed this loss as a result of mismanagement as well as rivalry between Tomar and Scindia.

“I have only one response to that: in every election, you will see a rise and fall. There are many contributory factors to winning or losing an election. The responsibility, of course, is ours. No question about that. And I’m the last one to shirk away from any responsibility. If you’re ready to face the bouquets, you must be ready to face the brickbats. Accountability comes as a part of responsibility,” he said.

However, he pointed out, “If the Congress is exulting in so much victory over Morena Nagar Nigam and Gwalior Nagar Nigam, please explain to me that in Gwalior-Chambal in 2018, when the Congress won 26 seats out of 34, the BJP had only won seven. In 2020, the Congress had 27 seats out of the 28 that went in for by-election. Why is it that the Congress lost 19 seats out of those 28?”

OBC support

The OBC community, which comprises over 50 percent of the state’s population according to estimates by political parties, is considered to have played a major role in the BJP’s successive victories in Madhya Pradesh.

But the party is facing an uphill task in ensuring the community reposes its faith in it once again as the Congress, in its manifesto, has promised a caste-based survey, 27 percent reservation to OBCs in government jobs and has also asked the Centre to include OBCs in the women reservation bill.

“The Congress party’s history… It has always been a party that has opposed the cause of the OBCs. They opposed the OBC Commission report (submitted during the tenure of Morarji Desai), they opposed the Mandal Commission that was brought in and they are speaking as usual, nothing surprising about that, in a fork tongue, as they always do,” he said.

Taking a dig at Kamal Nath, Scindia said: “When elections come, they become temple tourists, they become OBC tourists and the minute elections are over, ‘What was it that you were talking about? I can’t recall…what did I say’,” he said.

Speaking to ThePrint, Kamal Nath had said that the BJP cannot take credit for Ram Temple and had defended his move of hosting Baba Bagheshwar Nath in his stronghold Chhindwara.

Scindia termed himself a ‘BJP worker’ and said, “For me, the BJP has always been family, it has always been home.”

“Don’t forget, my grandmother Raj Mata Vijaya Raje Scindia ji was the founding member of this party. As a child, when I was growing up, I was always surrounded by people from the BJP. My father (Madhav Rao Scindia), when he started his career in 1971, was an MP of the Jan Sangh. So for me, the BJP is very much family, but the Congress continues to call me a betrayer,” he said.

(Edited by Smriti Sinha)

Also read: ‘BJP doesn’t own Ayodhya Ram temple’, says Kamal Nath, denies playing ‘soft Hindutva’ in MP polls


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