VD Sharma, Member of Parliament from Khajuraho and president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Madhya Pradesh unit, expressed a different viewpoint regarding the notion of anti-incumbency against the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government in the State. During an exclusive interview with Organiser Special Correspondent Nishant Kumar Azad, VD Sharma emphasised that through good governance, the BJP has successfully dispelled the Beemaru Rajya label of Madhya Pradesh
Additionally, the BJP leader delved into discussions on economic incentives for marginalised communities, the role of women voters, the Jan Ashirwad Yatra, internal factionalism within the party, and various other subjects. Excerpts:
What are the key issues and agenda for the BJP in the upcoming Assembly elections?
In the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, the BJP is rallying behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose effective leadership has greatly benefited the country and the State. Noteworthy initiatives such as PM Awas Yojana, Ayushman Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, and PDS have led to unprecedented growth in Madhya Pradesh. For instance, the Ayushman Bharat scheme, offering medical coverage of Rs 5 lakh per individual, has already assisted 30 lakh people out of the State’s 3 crore 62 lakh population. These programmes are bringing tangible improvement to the lives of ordinary citizens, thanks to PM Modi’s guidance. Moreover, a substantial investment of Rs 1,17,000 crore has been made in developing Madhya Pradesh’s infrastructure under his leadership, reinforcing the sentiment, MP ke man mein Modi aur Modi ke man me MP (MP has Modi in its heart, and Modi has MP in his heart).
The BJP’s capable governance has successfully removed the label of Beemaru Rajya (ailing State) since 2003. In contrast, during Digvijay Singh’s tenure, the State’s condition was deemed Bantadhaar (deplorable). Under the leadership of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Madhya Pradesh has ascended to the ranks of developed States, exemplified by its top position in wheat production, leading Swachhta Abhiyaan (cleanliness campaign), and other areas of progress. Therefore, our primary focus in this election is the continued development and upliftment of the underprivileged. Our dedicated workers are stationed in 16,523 booths and we are confident of securing victory in the State elections.
When you are emphasising MP ke man me Modi, where is CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan?
No, it’s not as you are suggesting. Within the BJP, we firmly believe in the concept of collective leadership. This approach is not a recent development; we have been practising it for a long. What sets PM Modi apart is his exceptional empowerment of Madhya Pradesh. It’s truly remarkable that he has visited the State over 36 times, setting a record. In contrast, during Congress’s tenure, leaders would visit the homes of the impoverished in Bundelkhand, but even the most basic amenities like toilets were removed after their visits. While under PM Modi’s leadership, these families now have proper homes, access to gas cylinders, reliable water supply, electricity and more.
The once-drought-stricken region of Bundelkhand, known as Sukha Kshetra, has seen a transformation with projects like Ken-Betwa, where the PM invested thousands of crores, bringing joy to the lives of the local people. In Bina, the PM allocated Rs 50,000 crores for refinery projects aimed at creating job opportunities for the youth.
The BJP has held power for more than 15 years. There have been discussions about the growing anti-incumbency sentiments against the party. Is this the reason why prominent figures and leaders are being nominated for the upcoming elections?
I would like to emphasise one point, anti-incumbency typically arises in states where no progress has been made. Under the BJP’s leadership, Madhya Pradesh has experienced remarkable growth and development across the State, with a particular focus on uplifting marginalised communities. If you ask anyone, they will attest to the tangible impact the BJP’s efforts have had on the State. Even members of the minority community have acknowledged the positive changes they have witnessed in their lives under PM Modi and the BJP Government.
Regarding the inclusion of prominent figures on the candidate list, this is part of our strategy, and the party believes that their experience will be a valuable asset in achieving the growth and progress that the BJP envisions for Madhya Pradesh.
What is the impact of ‘Jan Ashirwad Yatra’?
Our leaders actively engaged with the public during Jan Ashirwad yatras, informing them about our accomplishments. After dedicating ourselves to serving the people of the State, we sought their blessings. The enthusiasm and optimism of the people reflect the blessings they have bestowed upon us.
For the daughters and sisters of the State, we introduced transformative initiatives like Ladli Behna, benefitting over one crore thirty-one lakh individuals and Ladli Laxmi, with over forty-five lakh beneficiaries. These schemes bring dignity and empowerment to women’s lives. The overwhelming support we received from the people in these rallies is a testament to their endorsement of our endeavour to transform their lives.
You mentioned Ladli Behna and other women-centric initiatives in the State. Will women play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of this election?
Indeed, women have historically been instrumental in influencing election outcomes. The BJP is recognised for introducing initiatives that bring about positive changes in the lives of our sisters and daughters, not just within the State but also across the nation. For example, at the national level, the Government launched Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, while in the State, we have implemented the Ladli Laxmi scheme. There are also self-help groups and various other beneficial programmes that are fostering women’s empowerment, making them more Aatmanirbhar (self-reliant).
Additionally, we have enacted the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam to ensure that women have equal representation in the Lok Sabha. We are committed to introducing more such schemes and working towards further empowering women. We are confident that the status and role of women will continue to evolve positively.
Regarding the allocation of tickets, there has been discontentment among party workers, with some even resorting to protests in places like Jabalpur, Narmadapuram, and Chhindwara. How would you explain this to voters?
There is no tension within the party on this issue. These are dedicated party workers, and it is natural for them to aspire to lead and contest elections. However, not everyone can be awarded a ticket. The workers were simply expressing their views to the leadership and there is no lingering resentment. We are a party rooted in its cadre and open discussions and debates are part of our culture.
Any momentary discontentment has been resolved. The party workers are now back in action, wholeheartedly supporting the party. I take pride in the dedication of our party workers, who selflessly put their aspirations aside for the collective good of the party. With their unwavering efforts, we are confident of victory in this election.
You mentioned that BJP is a cadre-based party, but it is also evident that individuals from various ideological backgrounds have joined the party over the years. Does this influence the party’s mindset and operations?
Not at all. The BJP remains steadfast in its principles. It is the largest political organisation in the world and every member, from a village sarpanch to the Prime Minister of the country, begins as a party worker. This steadfast approach remains unchanged and will continue to do so. Any leader who joins our party gradually assimilates our practices and functions as a BJP worker. They embrace our values and methods.
There have been discussions and debates about the emergence of various groups and factions within the party over the years. What is your perspective on this, and how do you think this groupism might influence the election results?
These allegations hold no merit. We are approaching this election as a unified team, with unwavering enthusiasm. Our efforts are concentrated on every single booth. It is not solely reliant on top leadership organising rallies; our dedicated workers are committed to securing victory on each booth. We are confident that the party will swiftly regain power.
What do you have to say about the Khargone riots and the way Congress reacted to it?
Congress is known for its minority appeasement politics and the way the attack was launched and the support given to the attackers by Congress is shocking. They are standing with terrorists of Hamas; their leaders are paying tribute to the terrorists, and they are justifying the statement that Congress ka haath, Aatankwadiyon ke sath.. The CWC (Congress Working Committee) passed a resolution supporting Hamas; for terrorists, they are moving to the court, and today they are with Hamas. After the Khargone riots, Congress said, “We will avenge the arrests,” they are saying this for the culprits who have killed people; such is the state of this party.
BJP performed very well in the vanvasi- dominated Vindya Kshetra in the 2018 polls. What is the condition this time?
The BJP has demonstrated strong performance in the Vindya Kshetra. I served as the Mahamantri in the previous term, and I am confident that in this election, the BJP will secure a resounding victory in that region. I believe we are poised for an unprecedented win. In the last election, the party won 24 out of 30 seats, but this time, I am certain we will achieve a clean sweep and secure all 30 seats in that region..
For the Chambal Kshetra it is said that ‘The party winning in this region wins the State’. What is your assessment?
In Chambal, we will perform the same way as in Vindhya. We will win all the seats in that region. I assure you that the BJP will have record-breaking numbers in this region and will return to power with the support of the people living in this kshetra.
In 2018, Congress came to power with promises of loan waivers, and this time, they are emphasising the Krishak scheme. What is BJP’s plan in response?
The BJP has a comprehensive plan in place. The Congress party’s track record is one of deception. In 2018, they made over 700-750 promises but failed to deliver on any of them. Their actions towards farmers after coming to power are well-known, turning many into defaulters. It was the BJP, under the leadership of CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, that settled the outstanding loan amount of Rs 22,000 crore, providing much-needed relief to those farmers. Therefore, Congress has no grounds to speak on behalf of farmers.
Under the BJP, we have implemented the Kisan Samman Nidhi scheme, providing farmers with a combined sum of Rs 12,000 from both State and central sources, in addition to various other benefits like improved roads, transportation and better market facilities. Madhya Pradesh has earned the Krishi Karman Award for the seventh consecutive time, a testament to the collective efforts of the State’s farmers, scientific research, and Government support.
Under the previous administration of Mr Bantadhaar Digvijay Singh, irrigation was available for 7 lakh hectares of land. We have expanded this coverage to 45 lakh hectares, and with the Ken-Betwa project, it is set to increase further to 54 lakh hectares. Madhya Pradesh has made significant strides in agricultural growth.
When Congress introduces a benefit scheme, BJP often refers to it as Revdi Culture. However, if BJP undertakes the same initiative, it’s termed as Jan Kalyan. What distinguishes the two?
The Congress party is known for making false promises and deceiving the common people, while we believe in delivering on our commitments. This is not revdi culture. In 2003, when we came into power, we initiated a scheme for our sisters from the vanvasi community, particularly focusing on the Baiga-Bhariya-Sahariya janjati. We provided Rs 1000 to each woman belonging to this community. These tribes were on the verge of extinction, but the scheme brought about a remarkable transformation in their lives.
However, when Congress came to power, they discontinued this scheme along with others like Ladli Laxmi, Kanyadaan, and Tirth Darshan schemes. They took money from the people and caused them hardship. This is what Kamal Nath’s administration did. Therefore, what we are doing is different from revdi culture. We are empowering people through our initiatives and promises.
In July 2023, news started circulating that VD Sharma was going out, and other names started floating for the post of State president. What is the story behind this?
See, the BJP is a party that places great emphasis on its dedicated cadre and I am proud to be a part of it. Whenever the party entrusts me with responsibility, I embrace it with equal joy and enthusiasm. It is important to note that these decisions are not made by individuals but rather by the collective leadership of the party, guided by able Ministers, including PM Modi, Amit Shah Ji, and JP Nadda Ji. We adhere to these assignments with utmost dedication.
Who will be the CM of the State if BJP comes to power, Shivraj Singh Chouhan or someone else?
I do not have the authority to address this question. We, as members of this party, have trust in the leadership of PM Modi, Amit Shah Ji, and other esteemed leaders to make collective decisions regarding appointments within the party.