Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, whose 15-month-old Congress government collapsed in March this year and led to the BJP’s return to the helm, has expressed confidence that voters will remove the saffron party from power in the upcoming assembly bypolls as things have “worsened” under its rule.
Bypolls to 28 Assembly constituencies in the state will be held on November 3.
In order to return to power in the state, the Congress has to win all 28 seats, while the ruling BJP only needs nine seats to reach the majority mark of 116 in the 230-member House.
“I have full faith in people and voters of the state, especially from these 28 seats. They are aware that the (BJP) government, which came to power by trading people’s mandate, has not been able to change anything in the last seven months.
The farmers’ condition has worsened and unemployment has increased…people understand everything,” Nath told PTI on Friday night.
“Voters in MP are simple, naive and poor, but they are very intelligent,” he said, adding that they will take a right decision.
He said the Congress will return to power in the state after the counting of bypoll votes on November 10.
Replying to a query about how many seats the Congress expects to win in the bypolls, Nath said, “I don’t believe in announcing such things. (CM) Shivraj Singh Chouhan is an expert in it.”
The Congress leader has been facing criticism for using the term “item” against a woman MP minister during the bypoll campaign.
The Election Commission on Friday revoked Nath’s star campaigner status for “repeated violations of the model code while campaigning for the bypolls”.
Speaking about it, he said, “Which post or position this star campaigner has? The EC had not given me any notice, nor had it asked me about it. Why they are doing this in the last two days of campaigning only they know.”
But the Congress leader defended his use of the word “item”.
“I was in Lok Sabha for so many years. There it is mentioned in the agenda sheet, item number 1, item number 2… That was on my mind. I did not say it to disrespect anyone,” he said.
“Yet, I had said that if someone feels insulted, then I express regret,” the former chief minister added.
Nath also claimed that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi did not express disapproval about him in particular after the episode, but only said disrespectful language should not be used against women.
On the BJP’s demand for apology from him over the remark, Nath said, “It is not anyone’s demand. I do what I feel is right and proper, because it (disrespecting the woman minister) was never my intention.”
Senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia’s rebellion against the Congress and the resignation of 22 MLAs of his party in Madhya Pradesh had led to the collapse of the Kamal Nath government in March.
Days before quitting the Congress, Scindia, while addressing a rally in Tikamgarh, had threatened that he would hit the streets if the party’s manifesto was not fulfilled by the Kamal Nath-led government.
Reacting to his threat later, Nath had then said, “Toh utar jayein sadak par (Let him hit the streets if he wants to).”
When asked about his reply to Scindia, Nath said what else would he have said in such a situation.
“If someone says that he will hit the streets and when the same question was asked to me, then I have to say go ahead and do it. What else should I say?” Nath said.
According to Scindia’s six loyalist ministers, who were among the 22 legislators who quit the party in March this year, Nath’s remark was the last straw that triggered the fall of his government.
When asked whether he tried to speak to Scindia after that, Nath said, “We used to talk quite often then. I had good relationship with him. But now there is no point in going back on those old things.”
Nath also slammed Scindia for alleging that “Bada Bhai-Chhota Bhai” (Nath and Digvijaya Singh) has set up a transfer industry in the state, and claimed that the maximum number of transfers were done on his (Scindia’s) recommendation and he has a list of it.
On being asked about the Congress’s allegations that MLAs were offered crores of rupees to switch over and whether his party has any evidence to support the claim, Nath said,
“There is no need of any proof. People understand everything and they know it…”
“I understand people a lot. I contest polls and don’t go the Rajya Sabha way. I have spent 40 years among people and I know them,” the nine-time Lok Sabha MP from Chhindwara said when asked whether his party will get support from people.
On the bitter battle of words witnessed during the bypoll campaign this time, Nath said, “Since they have nothing to say about development, they have started this to divert people’s attention.”
“They can’t say anything in the name of development. People had voted them out in November 2018. In the last seven months also they have not done anything in terms of development. Therefore, they are trying to divert attention,” he added.
Replying to a question on the BJP’s allegation that the Nath government did not fulfil the promise of loan waiver made to the farmers, Nath said, “Chouhan was lying for months about it when we were in power. But in the Vidhan Sabha they themselves have presented a figure that agriculture loans of 27 lakh farmers were waived! Now who is wrong, they or me?”
For the first time in the history of Madhya Pradesh, 28 by-polls are being held simultaneously because of switching over of 25 Congress MLAs to the BJP.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines