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Balakot air strike will not impact election results: Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Bhagel

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RAVISH TIWARI: What is your assessment of the Chhattisgarh Assembly elections?

If you look at the time before the creation of Chhattisgarh (2000), the Congress had formed governments in Madhya Pradesh. In 2003, it was not that the BJP won, the Congress lost (the Chhattisgarh elections). Not even the Congress, Jogiji (then CM Ajit Jogi) lost the elections. People did not like his style of working. Raman Singh became the chief minister. Even in 2008 and in 2013, one can’t say that the BJP won; we lost. In 2003, we won 37 of the 90 Assembly seats. In 2008, we won 38 and in 2013, we won 39. The difference (between the BJP and the Congress) has never been a lot. We have always been just five-six seats behind the halfway mark of 45 seats.

In the Antagarh bypolls, which happened right after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the word going around was that if Jogiji was removed from the Congress, our government would be formed. When he left the party, it paved the way for our victory. I was made the president of the state party unit just before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. We could not deliver then but we continued to fight for our people. We raised issues such as ration cards for the poor, sale of crops… We did padyatras, dharnas, gheroas. That is how we were successful in winning the people’s trust.

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RAVISH TIWARI: In the Assembly elections, your fight was against Raman Singh. Now, in the Lok Sabha polls, your fight is against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. How are the two contests different?

In the run-up to the Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, the BJP said Narendra Modi would be their face for the election. All banners, posters and hoardings had large images of Narendra Modi. Raman Singh’s picture would be very small. In our campaign, we spoke a lot about demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax. I think, in the entire country, the most opposition to demonetisation and the GST came from Chhattisgarh. We did not just target Raman Singh but also Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.

As the Assembly elections got closer, our party president Rahul Gandhi raised the chowkidar slogan for the first time while inaugurating a party office in Chhattisgarh. We kept raising that slogan and also the issue of the Rafale deal. As the elections got nearer, photos of PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah started shrinking on posters. So we beat both Modi and Shah in the 2018 Assembly elections. We have dispelled the notion that Shah is a election winning machine. That is not a fear now. Last time (in the state polls) we won three-fourths of the seats, this time we will win 100%.

RAVISH TIWARI: The BJP has decided to drop all its 10 incumbent MPs from Chhattisgarh and replace them with new faces in the Lok Sabha polls. How do you plan to take them on?

What people want to know is why are these leaders being replaced? Is it because work is not being done, or is it for getting some novelty in the polls, or is it simply out of fear? The BJP is scared after the defeat in the 2018 Assembly elections. This fear is the reason behind the change in leadership. A scared force can never win a battle.

RAVISH TIWARI: As a leader who has risen from the grassroots, what is your assessment of the Lok Sabha........

© The Financial Express