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The Rediff Interview/Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh
May 31, 2003
After a relatively smooth run as Congress chief minister of Madhya Pradesh for almost a decade, Digvijay Singh confronts his biggest crisis: the acute power shortage in the state. Singh spoke to Chief Correspondent Tara Shankar Sahay on the outskirts of the Congress conclave in Srinagar.
Your critics say nemesis is catching up with your government.
Isn't it obvious they have little of substance to say? Yes, the power situation in Madhya Pradesh is serious, but I am not playing ostrich over it. My government is taking all measures not only to buy power from other states but is also active in finding a lasting solution.
We are sharing power shortage equitably in the urban and rural areas. We have the Indrasagar project; 415 MW power will be generated from Bansagar. My government intends to generate 3500 MW of power in the next five years.
The NTPC power plants generated 1,600 to 1,700 MW but it was reduced to 1,100. We have spent Rs 40 crores to Rs 60 crores to buy electricity. Besides, few people realize that the power shortage in our state is also because of Chhattisgarh being formed. Our effort is to meet the challenge instead of indulging in gimmicks.
Will the power crisis be an election issue when the state goes to the polls later this year?
Yes, it will be the main election issue. I think divestment in the power sector is all right up to an extent but the public sector must be given its share of responsibility.
It is said your government intends to divert funds from other sectors to generate more power in the state.
We are cutting into some projects to help generate more power, but I feel my government made a wise decision to invest on literacy and health. These social sectors cannot be neglected, they are priority areas. According to all indicators, we have made progress. We have exercised fiscal discipline and the central government is aware of our effort.
What do you think about Mr Arjun Singh's recent assertion that groupism is rampant in the Congress party?
I think for any party member, voicing of grievances should be done in the right forum. If Arjun Singhji feels strongly about this issue, he should take up the matter with the Congress president behind whom the entire party stands united.
Is there factionalism in the Madhya Pradesh Congress party?
I am lucky there is no dissent in our state.
Is there a Third Force in MP?
I don't think so. There is the Congress, the BJP and, to some extent, the BSP.
How do you see the BSP's role in your state?
I think the Dalits should now decide whether they should support the BSP or the Congress since our party has been supporting their cause right from the beginning. Let the Dalits decide what has been done for them in Uttar Pradesh and what we have done for them in Madhya Pradesh.
What about the BJP?
The BJP will go to any extent to cut into Congress votes.
Do you feel the upper caste reservation issue raised by your Rajasthan counterpart Ashok Gehlot will be taken up by the Congress in other states?
The Ramji Mahajan Committee in 1984 went into this issue, but underscored that it cannot be implemented unless all parties agree to undertake a Constitutional amendment. The Congress government (of P V Narasimha Rao) had tried for it, but failed.
What is your perception of the government that would assume power following the 2004 general election?
Obviously, it would be extremely difficult for any single party to come to power on its own because that would entail at least 250 parliamentary seats. I think parties should have a common agenda and find a meeting ground. The main issues are going to be the fight against fundamentalism and economic issues.
You have had a long innings as chief minister. Have you thought of moving to the Centre?
No, thank you, I am very happy in Madhya Pradesh.Design: Dominic Xavier