All claims about Chhattisgarh’s development under the Raman Singh-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government are overhyped and a result of statistical jugglery, claimed Ajit Jogi in an interview to Zee Media’s Bharat Bhagya Vidhata. The former Chhattisgarh chief minister also alleged that the incumbent regime has distributed the state’s mining and natural resources as largesse to a few industrial houses at the expense of the poor, who according to Jogi, have doubled in last ten years.
“Chhattisgarh’s development under Raman Singh government is over-hyped. Rather it is the only state in India where families below poverty line have doubled,” alleged Jogi, who served as the first chief minister of India’s 26th state carved out of Madhya Pradesh on November 1, 2000.
“If you remove the income of top 100 industrial families like Jindal, Kailash, and others from the Chhattisgarh’s gross domestic product, you will know the reality of 10-11 per cent growth rate. While their income has increased from Rs 500 crore to Rs 1000 crores, the growth rate of ordinary people remains negative,” alleged Jogi.
Naxals, Jogi alleged, are growing because the state administration is doling out natural resources to industries instead of using them for the development of the poor. “The state government is benefitting only industries and our natural resources are being distributed as dole. Everyone knows how this government allocated two coal mine blocks to its own Member of Parliament Ajay S Sancheti’s firm in Bhatgaon on a royalty of just Rs 137 and Rs 550 for 32 years. Read Comptroller and Auditor General Reports on coal block allocation to realize the scale of loot in the state.”
He further added, “This government is only serving the interests of business houses. There are at least five dams on the Mahanadi to facilitate water requirement of the industries but not for irrigation. All water is being diverted for industrial purposes.”
While admitting graft as a “global epidemic” and difficult to weed out entirely from the system, Jogi defended the United Progressive Alliance’s track record against the Raman Singh government on graft. He said, “My party has acted on complaints against tainted ministers and leaders. But, in Chhattisgarh corrupt bureaucrats get promotion.”
Jogi, who last served as the state’s chief minister till 2003 and lost to BJP in assembly elections that year, squarely blamed the Raman Singh government for the recent rise in Naxal attacks and the growth of left-wing insurgency in the state. “During my tenure, the Naxals were confined to just one-third of the state’s area. But, Raman Singh has pushed the state into the hands of naxals and now they control two-third of Chhattisgarh’s areas.”
The Congress leader who is vying for power in the upcoming assembly elections in the state also dismissed the state’s successful reform and implementation of the public distribution system (PDS) as misleading. “I can take you to villages where there is no rice despite on PDS records.”
On the upcoming assembly elections, while Jogi claimed that the Congress is heading for a huge victory, he added a caveat that free and fair elections in Bastar must be ensured for his party’s victory. “We’ll win provided free and fair elections are held in Bastar. There is hardly any difference in the two party’s vote share.”
The BJP won 11 out of the 12 seats in the tribal-dominated Bastar belt in the last election. In 2008, the BJP won in 50 seats and the Congress secured 38. A swing of six seats on either side would have changed the outright mandate into a draw. The difference in vote share was even lesser, with the BJP having an advantage of less than two percentage points.
But, will Congress be able to cope up with factionalism and the loss of many of its top state leaders during the Darbha Valley Naxal attack earlier this year?
“Congress has come strong after each such incident. While we mourn the loss, the brutal attacks have made us stronger,” replied Jogi. On a specific question as to who’s the leader in the state, he said that, “We have just one leader and that is Sonia Gandhi. We all are her soldiers fighting in unison for our party.”
On his differences with other leaders within his party, Jogi said, “When people sit together to discuss about the party with prominent leaders like Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, there would always be different suggestions and views. These are merely discussions but not strong disagreements or differences in opinions.”
Jogi while accepting his differences with Pradesh Congress Committee chief Charan Das Mahant downplayed them as part and parcel of any democratic process. “We have riped together in politics. If Congress decides to prefer Charan Das over me, I have no problems with that.”
The former Chhattisgarh chief minister out rightly dismissed NaMo factor in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. “Unlike Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi lacks pan-India appeal. NaMo is only popular in social networking sites amongst certain middle classes which don’t vote. We cannot wait for trickledown effect to uplift poor.”
Zara Hat Ke tonight at 10 PM across all Zee Media channels. The interview is also available on Zee News and DNA websites.