Slamming the Narendra Modi government, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath has termed the recent income tax raids on his aide’s residence as ‘politically motivated’ to put pressure on the opposition parties ahead of the Lok Sabha poll. A veteran of election strategies, Nath has successfully helped the Congress capture the electorate’s mind-space by getting a number of BSP leaders to switch to his party to prevent splitting of votes. Excerpts from his interview with Rahul Noronha.
Q. The BJP was on the back foot three months ago after losing three crucial Hindi heartland states. They seem to be back in the game.
A. Not at all. It’s only the propaganda machinery of the BJP that has gained; they’re not gaining any votes.
Q. Do you think the post-Pulwama narrative has helped the BJP?
A. The BJP is trying to capitalise on it, but they must realise that elections are very localised now.
Q. The BJP has been saying that the country is safer in their hands and that national security is a big issue.
A. Nothing can be further from the truth. Most major terror attacks in the country took place when the BJP was in power.
Q. Do you think the Congress can stitch alliances after the poll? The BJP seems to have done a better job as of now.
A. The BJP has no choice, they are zero in many states and need alliances to campaign in those states. Even though there is no alliance right now, there is a grand alliance of objective, which is to keep the BJP out. This alliance will firm up after the poll and will be very successful.
Q. Do you think the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) will be the game- changer for the Congress?
A. The voters will definitely look at NYAY as an attempt to pull them out of poverty and will support a government that wants to do that. In Madhya Pradesh, the Congress will win in more than 22 of the 29 Lok Sabha seats.
Q. As far as sops and doles are concerned, every political party seems to be trying to outdo the others. Do you approve of this?
A. In the last election, Mr Modi promised Rs 15 lakh [in all bank accounts], now he has promised Rs 6,000 [a year]to farmers. This was started by the BJP. Every party has to tell the people what it will do for them. Rahul Gandhi has said that NYAY is not just about monetary benefits, but the transformative impact it will have on the lives of a large number of people.
Q. In Madhya Pradesh, you seem to be banking on OBC reservation and farm loan waiver in a big way. Do you think three months is enough time for beneficiaries to shift allegiance from the BJP to the Congress?
A. Everything is not done with an electoral motive. Agriculture is important for the state because 75 per cent of the population depends on it. Loan waiver was a necessity. The OBCs account for 51 per cent of the population and certainly deserve that reservation. It’s been a long-standing demand. That the decisions pertaining to the farmers and OBCs were taken before the election is a coincidence.