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Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan
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What transpired was a media conference, with Ganesh getting pride of place next to the chief minister. With the politically crucial state poised to go in for the second round of polling on Thursday, Ganesh posed some questions along with other journalists.
You say the National Democratic Alliance will form the next government, can you tell us where your seats will come from?
In Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand [Images], Punjab, Orissa, Assam. Bengal, err, no. Kerala [Images] errr... And the north-eastern states.
People say you are Narendra Modi [Images] minus Hindutva, what do you have to say to it?
No, I do not compare myself with him. Narendraji is a big leader. I cannot compare myself with him. I am an ordinary worker of the BJP.
I am not comparing you with him, all I meant was that while Modi speaks about development and Hindutva, you only talk about development.
Each is a different individual. But on the whole what I want to say is that Narendrabhai is an important leader of the BJP.
How do you think the BJP will perform in this election?
I have visited all the 29 constituencies, especially the 13 that are going to the polls on Thursday. I have visited thrice the different assembly seats in them. People are supporting us. They are responding to us. I have a personal rapport with the people. The same rapport that a brother or uncle would have. The people are close to us and we will get very good results.
What do you have to say about this new trend of personal attacks and mudslinging in the elections?
People do not like personal attacks and mudslinging. The public wants to talk about development.
What are the issues in this election?
Price rise, terrorism, development, and money in Swiss banks is the latest issue which when I mention at public meetings people respond with enthusiasm. People are angry that the national wealth has been looted and stashed in foreign countries.
What are the issues in Madhya Pradesh?
The issue is that development in Madhya Pradesh is stalled because of the biased stand of the central government. They are hostile to us, which goes against the grain of democracy. People now know that we should form the government at the Centre and then alone can we develop Madhya Pradesh to its full potential.
Development is the most important issue here. People here will vote for that issue only. Terrorism [Images] is second and price rise is third. The latest issue is Swiss banks and black money stashed there.
You do not make personal attacks on your rivals, so how do you respond to their charges?
Rahul Gandhi [Images] is saying that only 5 paise in a rupee reaches the common man. A few days back he used to say 15 paise. Earlier Rajiv Gandhi [Images] used to say 15 paise and Rahul was merely repeating that. Then some of his leaders must have told him that after so many years you cannot say the same thing, so he changed it to 5 paise.
What I would like to know is, if only 5 paise is reaching the people and the central government knows it, why are they not acting on that knowledge and doing something about it?
Central Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh has praised MP for its implementation of village programmes. He has given us a certificate of merit, which I will show to you. And Rahul Gandhi is saying that benefits are not reaching the common man. The prime minister's rural roads scheme, the employment guarantee scheme have all been implemented here and we have won praise from the concerned ministers.
Another thing I have been noticing is that these days Rahul, Soniaji and Priyanka are very concerned about the poor. They go into their huts. They stay overnight in their homes. They are making fun of the poor. If they don't like huts they should build concrete homes.
For 60 years they have ruled us for most of the time. What did they do for the poor? If they were sincere they would have eradicated poverty by now. They had the time and the power to do so.
What do you have to say about Congress leader Arjun Singh's [Images] predicament, he is unhappy at the way he has been treated?
The Congress does not know how to treat its elder and senior leaders. Have they stopped talking to their senior leaders? I have seen his pain on camera. If they have talked to him, then why this piquant situation?
They do not respect their regional leaders like Suresh Pachouri. They do not allow their local leaders to work in peace.
I respect Arjun Singhji. He allowed people of all castes to come forward. He gave them a chance to achieve political power. Backward people came forward because of him. But one bad aspect of that was that casteist politics increased.
I may have many differences with Arjun Singhji, but no one can deny that he is a very senior leader of Madhya Pradesh. When I see such a senior, elderly leader in pain even my heart feels the same pain, my sympathies are with him.
Is your sympathy personal or political? And didn't your party treat Uma Bharti in the same manner?
It is personal. He belongs to a different party. And if it was their internal matter they should have talked about it at home and not in public.
Is he welcome in your party?
The BJP considers people wanting to join us. There is no such appeal now so the question doesn't arise. I am not making any offer to him. I respect him. You should not hurt old people who have served you all their lives.
But your party did the same to Uma Bharti and Madan Lal Khurana.
The BJP will never behave like that with our leaders. Those who have left have done so on their own accord. And talked later. When they were in the party they got all the respect they deserve.
Money is Swiss banks is an old issue and so is price rice, aren't you bringing them up late in the day?
We bring up issues only after we have proof. Even American President Barack Obama [Images] has just asked Swiss banks for information on American money there. We are asking about our money. And we have been agitating against price rise for two years now. Why are you saying that we are highlighting it now?
Do you support a retirement age for politicians?
No, you can be a politician till the last minute of your life.
Do you have different strategies for areas where you are strong and where you are weak?
We have different strategies for every seat. Even if you consider us weak in Chhindwara (Congress leader Kamal Nath's constituency), we have put up a good fight and we will win that. Even Guna (Jyotiraditya Scindia's constituency) we will put up a strong fight.
But I am not going to give you numbers.
Who will be your allies in case you fall short of the 272 number?
We will get the allies as the need arises, you don't worry about that.
What do you think about Varun Gandhi [Images]?
I don't have to think about him.
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