Senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, who heads the Congress’s campaign committee in Madhya Pradesh, speaks about the party’s prospects. Excerpts from an interview:
The Congress’s list of candidates was delayed because of reported differences between leaders like you and Digvijaya Singh. How do you respond?
The delay is because of a rigorous exercise to make sure that the list is one that is done with a great amount of due diligence. That’s why it took some time. And as you can see, it’s a very composite list, covering the entire spectrum of society. Now that the list is out, it is for the people to judge the efficacy of the list. It takes care of everything: every section, demographics and every gender.
So you deny there were differences among leaders?
There was no rift! I don’t know where this figment of imagination has come from, because Digvijaya Singhji, Kamal Nathji and I have had very healthy discussions on every single seat.
But factionalism prevented the Congress from declaring a CM candidate…
I have always said that there are times when a party projects [a CM candidate] and there are times when it does not. Both BJP and Congress have followed this strategy. So, there is nothing surprising about it. As far as factionalism is concerned, three, four of us have resolved to work unitedly to overthrow the BJP, go there and make a government that will actually serve the people of Madhya Pradesh. This battle is not about power; it is about re-energising our State, a State we all care about and a State that had gone into complete backwardness with the rule of Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The Congress seems to be going all out to get the ‘Hindu’ vote with a very overtly religious campaign…
I have often said keep politics out of religion and religion out of politics. If you are secular, you don’t have to take a certificate from anyone about your beliefs. Your beliefs are your own personal philosophy. Tomorrow, if I decide to go to a dargah, gurdwara or mandir or any other place of worship, that is my choice.
But in M.P., a Hindu-majority State, the Congress is making an all-out effort to get the Hindu vote…
The Congress is making an all-out effort to get everyone’s vote. We are the only party in the country that belongs to everyone. Everyone has a right on us and we belong to everyone. Why is the BJP getting an allergy? They are reacting as if it’s almost an allergic reaction.
The BJP has a certain perception with regard to religion and politics. Do you think the Congress can beat them at their game?
The Congress’s game is about four square meals a day, it is about ensuring that you get your rights. It is about ensuring livelihoods of our people, jobs, employment. It is about infrastructure. Congress’s game is about making your life better and not religion. And the fundamental principle about our game is to provide a society where everyone has an equal right. To ensure peace and stability in society. These are points on which the BJP has miserably failed.
Why could Congress not seal an alliance with the BSP?
You may have a point of view and I may have a point of view. If there is a meeting of minds on those values and principles, then the transaction follows. If there isn’t a meeting of minds and hearts, on what those fundamental precepts are today, doesn’t mean that the doors are closed forever. We can have meeting of minds on another date. And BSP is a party we respect deeply. It’s unfortunate that at this point of time, meetings of minds and hearts couldn’t happen. We look forward to a day when this will be possible. And that may be in the near future!
Prime Minister Narendra Modi swings the mood of the voters with his last-minute campaigning. Do you have a plan to counter this?
The 7.5 crore people of Madhya Pradesh have decided that they will negate this this time. They have seen through the veil and seen what the BJP is all about, trying to dupe people and giving out false promises. This time, there will be no Modiji or Shivraj Singhji magic. This time there will be people’s magic and Rahul Gandhi’s steely resolve to work for the poor by having a growth-oriented government.