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'What can I do if there are no rains?'

Last updated on: April 27, 2009 17:52 IST
If the Centre does not supply water and power, he can do little to intervene, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tells Shashikant Trivedi.

Excerpts:

After regaining the mandate in the assembly elections five months ago, you are facing voters again after such a short period. How do you rate your chances in a situation where the state capital does not have regular water supply?

Why only the state capital, the entire Madhya Pradesh is facing its worst-ever water crisis. Ujjain is being supplied water once in ten days. I am helpless. The rain gods are playing truant. What can I do if there are no rains?

But what about power? Rural areas are facing 12-15 hours of power cuts. Thermal and hydel power stations are in your hands.

Again, our hydel power project reservoirs are dry as there have been no rains. Worse, the Central government has cut our power quota by more than 300 Mw and coal supply by five million tonnes. How can a state government run thermal power plants without coal? The central government has done so with mala fide intentions.

You are the CM. The voters will look to you for water and power.

I have taken out nyay yatras (justice rallies) to focus on the unfairness of the system. Our Centre-state relationship is such that the state is at the receiving end in some situations. I am eager to trigger a debate on the issue. People are rallying behind me and my government.

As a chief minister, you are responsible for ensuring at least drinking water to the people. Nyay yatras cannot be a solution to drinking water problem.

I don't believe in propaganda. As a chief minister, my duty is also to bring the truth to light. I have written several letters to (prime minister) Manmohan Singh ji. Strangely, he replied that we should import coal. When we produce millions of tonnes of coal, why should we import? Millions of rupees of investments are feared to be stuck due to power

shortage. Who is responsible? As regards contingency plans, I have asked my officials to make better arrangements for drinking water. We have earmarked separate funds for various projects. I am monitoring the situation, but unfortunately, we have only two options - use ground water or transport water to ensure drinking water in various towns and rural areas of the state. Meanwhile, the code of conduct has prevented us from swinging into action in various areas. We have requested the Election Commission to be lenient in this regard and allow us to arrange for water in some severely affected areas.

How long will these contingency measures sustain a state with 60 million people?

As of now, I am busy in the election campaign, please talk about elections.

As a chief minister, how do you face voters on the water and power issue when one of the biggest lakes of the world in front of the chief minister's house has dried up? And two mega projects to supply Narmada waters to Indore and Bhopal are facing difficulty.

I am confident that my party will win a sweeping majority in the General Elections. As I said, people are rallying behind us and are eager to vote the United Progressive Alliance out of power. They have widely accepted our schemes like the Ladli Laxmi Yojna, the Kanyadan Yojna and other development plans which I don't want to repeat. Narmada water will reach Bhopal by September 25.

But our sources say the consortium completing the project is facing some technical problems.

No, I have been told the project will be completed in time. The deadline is September 25. And I mean this.

You managed your party's win in the recently concluded assembly elections. What was your strategy? Are you trying to replicate it in the General Elections?

We are overwhelmed by the public response that Advani ji is the best leader in India. Our poll strategy is two-pronged. One, tell people that Advani ji is the next prime minister as he has been unanimously elected the prime ministerial candidate of the National Democratic Alliance. Advani ji is a public leader while Manmohan Singh ji is the choice of one person. Second, we want to point at the biased attitude of the Central government towards Madhya Pradesh on power.

Do you mean to say that inflation, slowdown, etc, are not issues?

I mean that we are raising the issue of the Central government's failure on all fronts. The market is not governed by a few people who can steer the Sensex in any direction. The Indian market and economy are run by farmers, labourers, thousands of workers, street vendors, etc. Manmohan Singh ji has failed to understand this economics. If there was a global meltdown, he was not expected to sit idle but to give states a direction on employment generation, new plans and newer ways to remain insulated from the meltdown. But he and his government belied our hopes.

Your image is that of a leader who comes from a farmer's family, rural, or semi-urban at best. How do you manage polls successfully?

Just because I am from a rural background or a farmer does not mean I don't understand urban grievances. My government made endless efforts to ensure my party's victory. The voters vote a party for its promptness and speedy disposal of problems. The poorest of the poor are high on my government's priority. My social schemes are well accepted across Madhya Pradesh. There are flaws in the system. You cannot make it foolproof. There is always room for improvement and we are promising improvement and better facilities provided voters give us a comfortable majority at the Centre. I have a five-year action plan and I will come up with a detailed plan in June.

Are you going to score over Narendra Modi in your party?

I am nowhere near Modiji. He is a great leader. I am a small party worker.

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Shashikant Trivedi
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