New Delhi: Asking what could have led to the ‘devaluation’ of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Madhya Pradesh, former chief minister Uma Bharti has said there is a need to correct the public’s perception of the party for it to form government in the state.
“I am shocked that three years back, Kamal Nath ji could not even muster the courage to face the floor test for fear his legislators would switch sides. The situation was so bad for the Congress [then] that if elections had happened, the party would have got 20 seats,” Bharti said in an interview with ThePrint.
She added: “My suggestion [to the BJP] since the beginning was to go for elections after the assembly was dissolved. But everyone said they wanted to form the government.”
Bharti was referring to the rebellion of 22 Congress MLAs in 2020 that led to the fall of the then Kamal Nath government in Madhya Pradesh, with the latter choosing to resign instead of facing the floor test.
Looking back at the party’s alleged ‘devaluation’, she said, “…A perception has been created that we might not be able to form the government. Why has such a perception been created? What mistake of ours brought us to this…I am concerned because this government did make some good decisions.”
The senior leader said it required introspection “to understand why there has been anti-incumbency [sentiment]. There is a need for the party to do some self-reflection and if we are able to…make the people understand, things will become better.”
Bharti also lauded the BJP’s move to field sitting MPs and ministers for the coming elections in the state. “Ye toh mujhe bahut achchha lagaa… jo hua hai wo toh hona hi chahiye. Koi baap ki jaagir thodi hoti hai ki hum hi ladte rahenge. (I liked the idea…what has happened should anyway have happened. This isn’t anyone’s property that they can continue to contest elections).”
In a democracy, said Bharti, one may get the desired ticket twice, but not necessarily for the third time. “Satta ka ahankar nahi paalna chahiye ki main hamesha iss par baitha rahunga (One shouldn’t be arrogant about the power they wield),” she said.
On the party leadership, Bharti said she admired how Home Minister Amit Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and party chief J.P. Nadda worked together…“Wo jitne chahe wo badal denge (They will change as many candidates as they want). Badalne ki aadat padni hi chahiye (Changing candidates should be habitual).”
The former CM said she will definitely fight the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, but not from the state. She said Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had also suggested that she contest from the state but she was not interested. “I could contest from UP or MP… and I think I should contest from a third state,” she said.
She said she “felt bad” that she was not invited for the Jan Ashirwad Yatra and has since turned down invitations to attend yatras in the rest of the country, including one by the Chhattisgarh BJP.
On being reminded how Chouhan has not been officially fielded by the party for the assembly elections while many others have got a ticket, Bharti called Chouhan a committed party leader, and said, “I respect Shivraj ji a lot. Only Nadda ji can tell whether Shivraj ji will be a CM or not. He wasn’t made a minister twice in Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and it did not matter to him. He is not after power.”
Bharti said she has been highlighting the issue of OBC quota for women in Parliament for many years and will continue to raise it. Claiming that women from OBC will be left behind while those from SC and ST communities will get 24 percent reservation, she said she had written to the PM, asking that an amendment she had proposed back in 1996, when the bill was first presented, be incorporated.
“When the then H.D. Deve Gowda–led government introduced the women reservation bill in 1996, I said OBC women should also be included, which is why it was sent to the standing committee. At that time, both the BJP and the Congress said there should be reservation for SCs and STs but not for the OBCs. Yet, I pressed for OBCs to be included,” she said.
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‘Do what I believe in’
“My stand has remained the same, I have not changed but it is the Congress which has changed. They got 10 years under Manmohan Singh but they did not do it. The BJP’s stand had remained the same, they just wanted it to be passed after giving SC/ST reservation,” she added.
On the fact that the Bill has got the President’s assent but quota for OBC women has not been added, Bharti said: “As it is not happening now [the implementation], I am relaxed, I had become uneasy earlier….”
Bharti said Modi also comes from the OBC community and she is confident that a provision will be added to the Act. “I have full faith in Modi ji that he will introduce the OBC quota in women reservation.”
Bharti said she continues to do things that she believes in, irrespective of whether they are on the party agenda or not. “Ram Mandir got out of the BJP’s agenda at some point…but it remained an agenda for me and I continued to speak on it. Sushma Swaraj ji had once said that Ram Mandir is a cheque which has been cashed once and can’t be encashed again. Later, however, she felt shouldn’t have said it. The party left the Ram Mandir issue for at least two elections, but I did not.”
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)
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