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November 19, 1998


The Rediff Election Interview/ Narendra Modi

'Sonia Gandhi has inaugurated a new era -- corruption by proxy'

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Narendra Modi Narendra Modi is the Bharatiya Janata Party's anchorman in Madhya Pradesh where the BJP hopes to return to power next week. Widely considered to be one of the best organisers in the party, Modi, a BJP general secretary, took time off from the election campaign to speak to Archana Masih and Vaihayasi P Daniel in Bhopal.

In your assessment, what is the BJP's situation in the forthcoming assembly election in Madhya Pradesh?

I do not get into predictions. I have my personal analysis. I travel to the interiors of the state, get information through various channels, have studied the results in past elections and after seeing all this I have arrived at the conclusion that the BJP will form the next government in Madhya Pradesh.

How many seats will this translate to?

I don't think any wise politician should speculate on the number of seats. We claim no numbers.

But Mr Vikram Verma (the BJP's leader of the Opposition in the state assembly) has been saying that your party is expecting around 220 seats.

If he says so, it is nice. Very nice, but I don't speak about numbers.

Why hasn't the BJP projected a chief ministerial candidate in MP?

This has not only happened this time. This has been a tradition in MP. This time we also have a unique situation, where people will have a chance to form two governments by one vote. This is happening for the first time in 50 years. This has also been our slogan in this election. If two governments are to be formed then to project one CM is unfair and two creates confusion. So it is better to carry on with the tradition.

What would you say would be the region-wise performance of the BJP -- what are your areas of concern?

By and large, there has been a uniform wave in MP. Yes, in Chattisgarh there are two to four per cent better chances, and this is because of special reasons. If the speed of wind is 80 in other areas, here it is 200.

On what basis do you base this claim?

Because this time the people of MP will be voting for change. This is going to be a vote for change.

What issues has your party been highlighting in the state?

Number one is corruption and the people are aware of it. Sonia Gandhi has inaugurated a new era -- corruption by proxy. There are 24 ministers in MP under the dark shadow of the Lok Ayukta. Soniaji hasn't given them tickets but has given tickets to their families. So this is the beginning of corruption by proxy and this is a big issue.

The Congress takes credit for panchayati raj. But in MP, there has been no decentralisation of power, but a decentralisation of corruption. Khao aur khane do (Indulge in corruption and let others do the same.) This has been Digvijay's politics and his strategy. I read Jansatta, where Digvijay Singh says that elections are not won by performance but by tikdam (manouevering).

Sonia Gandhi has come here twice, has held 12 to 15 meetings but hasn't spoken a word about Digvijay Singh's performance. If they had done any work, she would have spoken about it, wouldn't she? She says the same speech that she says in Rajasthan here in MP.

But Digvijay Singh has taken so many populist measures. Don't you think that would bear fruit for the Congress?

When I came here for the first time I met an IAS officer and I asked him about the development in MP. He said his government was going into the Stone Age. I asked why, and he answered that if you go to any district in MP you will find 100 to 150 shilanayas stones (inaugural stones) -- these are all for new schemes, but no scheme has taken off.

I myself went to Guna. I suggest you should go there too. It is the CM's home district, after all. I asked the people there about the development in the last five years. Specifically education, roads, new hospital facilities, employment schemes, industry and they said no such development had happened in the last five years. If this is the case of his home district, what can one say about other areas of the state?

Yet, he has given agricultural loans, provided homes to slum dwellers…

When he lost the Lok Sabha election in 1998 he decided to give pattas (licenses) to slum dwellers, but the entire scheme boomeranged. It was only an authority letter and no real land was actually given. If there were 1,000 slum dwellers, only 25 to 30 were given pattas. This gave rise to discontent. Ultimately, he had to stop this and in this entire election Digvijay Singh isn't mentioning this.

What about the new districts that have been created, surely that would help in garnering support?

The new district decision had already been taken by the Patwa government. We lost power before we could implement it. After which, we immediately asked for the implementation of the decision, but they didn't agree. Now at the last minute before the assembly election, they have implemented it. When they started this, they had it on paper but could not get the administrative part of it in place. This again led to problems. So on paper there are 15 more districts, but their functional unit is not worked out.

Mr Singh is also known for his people to people skills. There are instances when he is known to have visited villages unannounced and met with villagers.

I am hearing this for the first time. But I must credit Digvijay -- even though we are in the electoral battleground -- that his public relations is best, but performance is zero. He is always smiling. That's why I think in future if he works as a model for Colgate toothpaste or a toothbrush, he'll be their best model. A best seller.

Photograph: Vaihayasi P Daniel

Narendra Modi interview, continues

Assembly Election '98

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