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It’s CM vs ex-CM in poll-bound MP as Shivraj, Kamal Nath play ‘what promises did you fulfil?’ game

While BJP leaders said Chouhan's attacks on predecessor Nath part of party strategy 'to remain on offensive', Congress said it's opposition's role to question govt shortcomings.

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New Delhi: The BJP-Congress rivalry in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh has taken a personal turn, with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and former CM Kamal Nath trading barbs and allegations about each other’s governments.

If Chouhan is questioning Nath on how far the latter’s government delivered on promises made to the people, Nath is hitting back with why the subsequent government didn’t fulfill the assurances that were made by him in public interest. While the exchange has left Congress members wondering why the CM has taken on the “Opposition’s role of questioner”, the Bharatiya Janata Party has defended CM Chouhan by claiming it be the party’s strategy “to remain on the offensive”.

Nath was the Madhya Pradesh CM for a little more than a year after the Congress won the 2018 state polls, but was ousted in a rebellion by Jyotiraditya Scindia in 2020, following which the BJP came to power with Chouhan as CM.

The ongoing war of words between Chouhan and Nath was initiated by the former at an event in Ujjain on 28 January, when he told the gathered media that he would ask the former CM questions every day, as a way of answering the Opposition’s allegations against his own government.

Highlighting the “failed promises” of the Nath-led 15-month Congress government, Chouhan asked: “They (Congress) had listed crops like wheat, gram, mustard and paddy and promised bonus (on purchase price) in their manifesto. Did even one person get such a bonus in 15 months?”

Nath, who heads the state’s Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC), hit back on Twitter the same day, saying, “I have heard that Shivraj ji is questioning me (about) which promises we have implemented and which ones we have not been able to fulfill. Only a person of unstable mind can ask such questions.”

He added: “The Chief Minister’s job is not to ask questions, but to implement schemes in public interest. If our announcements (schemes) are in public interest, then you should implement it.”

In another tweet, he said: “Do save your questions for a few months. The public will remove you from the (CM’s) chair and give you a lot of time to ask questions. I think you are indulging in net practice for the same.”

Their exchanges have since continued.

BJP leaders have meanwhile, explained the war-of-words on the part of Chouhan as the party strategy, which “is to remain on the offensive, so that the allegations of the opposition do not have any effect on the public”.

“If we look at the local body elections and the by-elections over the years, the momentum is with us. But the Congress is not as weak here as compared to other states. The Congress is aggressive, so to expose their lies, the CM is asking direct questions – that you (Congress) should state how many promises you fulfilled,” a general secretary of the Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP told ThePrint.

He added: “This way, we can fight the allegations of the opposition and look aggressive among the public and improve our image.”

A second party leader, who is also a minister in the Chouhan government, told ThePrint that “there are two ways to run a government — either your work speaks or you speak”.

He further said that “in politics, only image works. Nowadays, even after working if you allow the opposition’s allegations to take over, then your image becomes negative”.

The Congress’ Madhya Pradesh spokesperson, K. K. Mishra, however, told ThePrint, “it’s is Opposition’s role to question the government. The many promises which have not been fulfilled by the BJP government need to be exposed, but rather than fulfilling them, the CM is questioning the Opposition. This is ridiculous.”

A second Congress leader also told ThePrint that the party’s strategy was to keep questioning government shortcomings, so that the BJP couldn’t take lead in narrative-building before the upcoming assembly elections.

Also read: As MP election nears, lessons for BJP in local body polls — ‘lead ours, but Congress a concern’

Chouhan’s questions to Nath

On 29 January, Chouhan again hit out at Nath on Twitter with a Hindi couplet, saying, “Yesterday, I asked Kamal Nath a question and he got furious and said ‘does a CM ask questions’?”

“You continue to mislead the public and we shouldn’t even ask questions?” he added, putting out a clip of himself talking to the media in Bhopal.

While talking to reporters over the weekend, Chouhan posed another question: “Kamal Nath had promised to give a bonus of Rs 5 per litre to the milk producers through the milk unions. Did he give even an iota in 1.25 years?

A day later, the MP CM tweeted: “Kamal Nath is running away from my questions. He made so many promises but fulfilled none. He is telling new lies every day.”

On his part, Nath Monday asked Chouhan, “Shivrajji, you have once again brought your bundle of lies. You had announced in BJP’s ‘Nari Shakti Sankalp Patra’ that ‘we will double the number of Janani Express 108 ambulances to provide adequate transport facilities for mother and child to health centres’.”

“But every day there are reports of death of pregnant women due to lack of ambulances in the state. Who is responsible for these deaths Shivraj ji?” Nath wondered.

Nath had tweeted on the subject a day earlier as well, urging the MP CM to “keep in mind the dignity of the Chief Minister’s post”.

Meanwhile, Chouhan Monday also questioned Nath about the Krishak Kanya Vivah Sahayata Yojana, which he said had been announced by the Congress government, under which financial assistance of Rs 51,000 was to be given for the marriage of daughters of small farmers.

“What happened to that?” he asked.

On Tuesday, the MP CM took another shot at the previous Congress government.

“On the recommendation of the gram sabha, the crop insurance scheme was promised for farmers (by the Congress)… but the money was not given because the basis of the scheme was made such that farmers do not get the money,” Chouhan alleged.

He added: “Under the BJP government, Rs 17,000 crore were deposited in the accounts of farmers in two years, but under the Congress, they were cheated. Kamal Nath will have to answer for this. Kamal Nath repeatedly says that I am lying, but your bundle of lies has weight, and now you are out to mislead,” Chouhan added.

Nath responded with one of his own questions Tuesday: “I ask you (Chouhan) that in your vision paper you had promised that you will ensure 100% procurement of pulses. Is your government buying 100% pulses from farmers? Leave meaningless rhetoric, look at the farmers and fulfill the promise you had made to them.”

Taking a dig at Chouhan, he added: “I want to tell the farmer brothers that they should not worry. The film (government) starring Shivraj ji has six more months left, and after that we all will follow the path of truth and make Madhya Pradesh great.”

The Chief Minister, on the other hand, made his latest allegation against the Congress at a state officials’ meeting in Bhopal, where he claimed, “The Congress had said in its promissory note that it will bring a new crop insurance scheme, but Kamal Nath did not even pay the old insurance amount. We deposited Rs 2,200 crore of the old premium to farmers after coming to power.”

How to ‘counter lies’

With the BJP desperate to not lose owing to anti-incumbency sentiments among voters, the state minister quoted earlier said, “it is as important for a Chief Minister to keep talking as it is to work”.

Citing the example of Karnataka CM and party leader Basavaraj Bommai, the MP minister claimed, “he only works to counter the Opposition’s tactics, but he is not an aggressor. This has tarnished his image”.

Bhagwandas Sabnani, a general secretary in the Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP, said: “It is not unexpected for the Chief Minister to ask questions. The lies of the Opposition can only be countered by the truth. The task of the Opposition is to ask questions, not to spread lies.”

Last month, J.C. Madhuswamy, BJP leader and law minister in the Bommai government, while taking a jibe at the CM, had also asked party leaders not to remain mute spectators to Opposition allegations, but to respond aggressively.

“It is sad that we are left as mute spectators to the Opposition’s allegations. We rather start looking inside ourselves to see if the allegations are true. Instead of questioning them, we start questioning ourselves,” he said.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

Also read: Why MP CM Chouhan is telling ‘non-performing’ BJP MLAs to ‘mend ways before it’s too late’

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