No anti-incumbency in Madhya Pradesh, BJP will retain power: Prahlad Singh Patel
Union minister Prahlad Singh Patel is one of seven Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Parliament members contesting the Madhya Pradesh elections
Union minister Prahlad Singh Patel, who is contesting assembly elections for the first time in his four-decade career, is one of seven Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Parliament members fielded for the Madhya Pradesh polls. In an interview with HT, the BJP’s Other Backward Caste (OBC) face spoke about the chief ministerial post, caste census, etc. Edited excerpts:
Which of the two elections—Lok Sabha or assembly—is more challenging?
It all depends on the mindset. Our ideologues whether [Bharatiya Jana Sangh leader] Deendayal [Upadhyaya] or [socialist leader Ram Manohar] Lohia used to say elections are the best time and medium to convey our ideology up to the grassroots. Since we are followers of Deendayal ji, we say that true service is service to the needy and poor. Elections give us an opportunity to showcase the development and welfare work we have done for people if we are in government and development plans if we are in Opposition.
What is your take on the freebie culture? Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also spoken against it...
I completely agree with the Prime Minister. That is why I advocate impact and third-party assessment of welfare schemes. Schemes should have an idea, reason, and plan behind it. Money should not be spent to just promote a free culture.
How big a challenge is the anti-incumbency for the BJP?
It is just a perception in the media thanks to the Opposition Congress’s propaganda. But our organisation is very strong. The state government’s impressive performance; infrastructure and welfare can be seen across the state. Our organisation is the biggest strength for us.
If the government’s performance is impressive, why has not chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan been projected as the party’s face, unlike in the previous three elections?
In none of the five poll-bound states, any particular leader has been projected. It is a policy of the party. It should not be seen as a case of demoting or rejecting anyone. We in the BJP are committed workers. Whichever decision is taken by the party, we follow it.
Do not you think this policy is going to be detrimental?
Our party takes every decision taking into consideration all the aspects. It is not just for Madhya Pradesh. The party has adopted the same policy in other poll-bound states too.
Is the projection of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the state elections part of preparations for 2024 Lok Sabha polls and should the elections in five states be considered as semi-finals to the same?
The entire world is recognising the Prime Minister’s leadership. Such a leader is born in centuries. Elections are elections. Our party takes every election seriously to serve the people.
As the BJP’s OBC face, what do you think of the demands of Congress and other parties for a caste census?
The BJP does not believe in caste politics. I think that the BJP has done justice to every segment of society unlike those who practise caste politics. Our Prime Minister is the first from OBC. In Madhya Pradesh, all three chief ministers of the BJP from 2003 onwards are OBC. Over 27% of Members of Parliament of the BJP are OBC. Over 30% of the BJP members of assembly across the country are OBC…[Congress leader] Rahul Gandhi whose caste and religion are not known is out with a torch to set society afire.
Is there a possibility of Congress’s return to power like in Karnataka with issues such as price rise, unemployment, and corruption being talked about in Madhya Pradesh?
I do not think people will believe Congress having been misled once [in 2018]. If corruption is an issue, then people know who the corrupt are. I pointed out corruption by Kamal Nath [state Congress president] with evidence. But neither Congress nor Nath responded.
What do you say about speculation that you are among the front-runners for the chief minister’s post?
These are all speculation. The party will take a decision after the elections.
How is the BJP leadership dealing with rebels?
It is not the BJP but the Congress in which leaders are publicly talking about tearing one another’s clothes. In comparison, there is hardly any rebellion in the BJP. If there are a few incidents, we will resolve them amicably.
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