'Tribals of India have seen through the RSS's hidden agenda'
'Youth were tricked by Modi's high-flying propaganda'
Congress leader Kantilal Bhuria, who wrested the Ratlam Lok Sabha seat in Madhya Pradesh from the BJP recently, speaks to Prasanna D Zore.
It takes just about 18 months for electoral fortunes to swing wildly. Kantilal Bhuria, the recently-elected Congress MP from Ratlam constituency in Madhya Pradesh, will vouch for it.
After losing the 2014 elections from Ratlam to the Bharatiya Janata Party's Dileep Singh Bhuria (who passed away this June, necessitating a by-poll) by 108,000 votes, Bhuria wrested the seat and his pride back by defeating Dileep Singh Bhuria's daughter Nirmala Bhuria by 88,000 votes in the by-poll.
Blaming the 'Modi wave' of 2014 that 'tricked' voters of his constituency into falling for the 'achche din' magic, Bhuria, a five-time MP, says the people of his state have once again reposed their faith in the Congress.
Bhuria also claimed that the popularity of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has helmed the state for a decade now, is dwindling fast and the Congress is emerging as a choice of the people.
The Ratlam MP spoke to Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com about his victory and how he plans to take on the Vyapam scam-ridden Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh.
You had lost the Ratlam Lok Sabha seat by more than 108,000 votes in 2014 but have won the same seat by over 88,000 votes now. What explains this dramatic swing in your favour?
People have started comparing our work with that of the BJP's. The entire area (the tribal belt of Ratlam-Jhabua) was suffering from a development deficit because of the policies adopted by Shivraj (Singh Chouhan, the Madhya Pradesh chief minister) and (the NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra) Modi.
In this circumstance, the voters of Ratlam have once again reposed their faith in me and blessed me with such a huge victory margin. They believe that Ratlam's development can only be done by the Congress and Kantilal Bhuria and so they voted me in this by-poll and I will fulfill all their expectations with honesty of purpose.
What were the issues you raised during the by-poll?
The Vyapam scandal and corruption of the Chouhan government is resulting in people coming back to the Congress once again in large numbers.
The people of Ratlam through my electoral victory have signalled that the countdown for the BJP in MP has started.
But the recent local body elections in Madhya Pradesh did not in any way signal such a revival for the Congress?
This (Lok Sabha) election was fought on bigger, national issues. It was through luck and voter arithmetic that the BJP won the polls to local self-governments. But the Ratlam result has given a clear indication that the BJP's days in Madhya Pradesh are numbered now.
Also, traders supported the BJP in large numbers during the municipal elections. But now they too are reeling under taxation and unfair raids on them by this government.
Why do you say that Chouhan is losing his popularity and appeal among voters in Madhya Pradesh?
The Ratlam election result shows that the way the electorate of Bihar rejected Modi, the voters of Madhya Pradesh are all set to reject Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh. The chief minister has only indulged in dishing out noble slogans but has failed to implement programmes on the ground.
I would have won by a margin of 200,000 votes had it not been for the absence of labourers who have migrated to states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal because their sources of livelihoods have been decimated by the policies of the Chouhan government. Their families are dying of hunger; farmers too are not getting any drought relief in large swathes of the state.
My victory is a sign of opposition to Shivraj's policies.
Also, my efforts to broaden railway connectivity from Gujarat, Udaipur, Dungarpur to Ratlam is all gathering dust in the BJP government's 12-year rule. Whatever development work I had initiated as a minister (in the UPA II government) has been facing closure.
This has led to a lot of resentment against the BJP and after comparing the good work done by the UPA II and that of the Modi government in the last 18 months, the people voted in my favour.
Also, the Vyapam scandal has made people realise that the BJP is not increasing employment opportunities but taking their rightful jobs away from the state.
The voters of the state have started opening their eyes and realised that there is a vast difference between what the BJP leaders promise and actually deliver. All these reasons are responsible for people once again moving towards the Congress.
Why did you lose the 2014 Lok Sabha election from the same constituency?
Unhone jhoot bola. Unhone jhoot bolke Modi ke naam se hawa chala di (The BJP misguided the people by spreading lies on which they built the Modi wave).
They promised 'achche din'; they promised employment to two crore people every year; they promised to deposit Rs 15 lakh in every person's account but they have not yet deposited 15 paise in anybody's account.
The youth of the state were tricked by such high-flying propaganda by Modi but now they have once again begun to shower their blessings on the Congress.
Did the deaths of 89 people in the Petlawad blast in September affect voter pattern in your constituency?
Petlawad is part of Ratlam constituency and the BJP's Rajendra Kanswa, who is the main accused in the death of these people, is absconding. It was under the tutelage of the state BJP that he dared to illegally store explosives and gelatin sticks in a heavily populated area.
The district administration was under pressure from the state government to not act against Kanswa and his illegal hoarding of such lethal explosives.
The deaths of so many innocents also led to a lot of anger against the BJP and they expressed their feelings in the elections. The Congress had raised red flags over the storage of such explosives not only in Petlawad but across the state, and the Chouhan government always turned a blind eye to such illegal activities.
Ratlam Lok Sabha constituency is reserved for the Scheduled Tribes. How did RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's comment that the reservation policy in India should be reviewed play with voters' choice?
The tribals of India have seen through the RSS's hidden agenda. Not only that, non-tribals, like farmers, too have seen through the Modi government's hidden attempt to take away their land by enacting an ordinance on land acquisition.
But the Congress opposed such backdoor ordinances and saved the lands of farmers from greedy land sharks.
Bhagwatji ne aarakshan par haath maarne ki koshish ki (RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat tried to interfere with the reservation policy for Dalits and tribals). But the Congress will now expose the RSS's and BJP's hidden agenda in front of the people.
The Congress will never let anybody tamper with India's Constitution.
How do you plan to take on the Shivraj Singh government in Madhya Pradesh?
The Vyapam scadal is worth Rs 5 lakh crore now; they (the BJP) have been benefitting from the jobs on sale scandal for the last 12 years of his (Chouhan's) rule in the state but now the CBI is investigating the case and soon we expect Chouhan and his ministers to come under the CBI's lens in the Vyapam scandal.
The other issue is black marketing of essential commodities by hoarders in cahoots with state government officials leading to a shortage of rations at the public distribution system.
We will also raise the issue of inflation. Aaj mehengai aasmaan choo rahi hai inke raj main (inflation is touching the skies today) but the central and state governments are ignoring this issue to the detriment of the poor in the country and Madhya Pradesh.
But how will you do this when the Congress is a divided house in Madhya Pradesh? There are so many power centres in the Congress in the state.
It is wrong to say that we are a divided house and did not fight the 2014 Lok Sabha polls as a united team. Everybody was busy fighting in their respective constituencies.
But, the lofty, false promises of the BJP did us in during the 2014 elections.