Digvijaya's period was bad, and we were punished for it for 15 years

Interview/ Kamal Nath, Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee president

Kamal Nath Kamal Nath

Is the Congress ready to take on the BJP ?

I won't say that we are ready. We are attempting to bridge the gaps. Politics has changed in the past decade and there is a lot of structural work to be done. It has become very localised and you need to have a grassroots organisation in every village. If you don’t, then you cannot combat the BJP’s organisational strength and money power. We are heading towards building that. It is late, but we will get there.

What is your strategy to fight the BJP?

The simple strategy is to explain to people that they have been thugged. The voter in Madhya Pradesh is simple, is poor, but is not a fool. He is willing to be disappointed but not willing to be thugged. In my political career, I have never seen a situation where every section of society is against the government; the farmers, traders, labourers, women and the youth, are all unhappy. Normally, government employees support the ruling party, but here, they are against the government en masse.

The BJP has immense resources and a well-oiled organisational setup.

Organisational power can only be countered with organisational strength. Since I took charge, that has been my focus. Until we are able to correct and strengthen ourselves structurally, we cannot fight the BJP. My focus is first on the districts, then the blocks, followed by the villages. We are strong in many areas, but I am working towards strengthening those areas in which we are deficient.

The Congress has been damaged by infighting. How can you resolve this?

I am lucky that I have good relations with everybody. In every political party, it is natural for some members to be close, but there is no groupism as such in the party that is destructive.

Who is the chief ministerial candidate for the Congress?

Let me make it clear that I am not hungry to be the chief minister. I am hungry for the Congress to come back to power and am selflessly working towards that.

The BJP's campaign has focused on reminding voters about Digvijaya Singh's tenure. How will you counter this?

Digvijaya has already announced that he is not interested in any post. He is not even contesting the elections. It is a ploy, and the people will realise that. The BJP should not have to talk about 2003. It should talk about its tenure, and the present. Digvijaya's period was bad, and we were punished for it for 15 years. For how much more time can we be sentenced?

Will the Congress go for a pre-poll alliance before the assembly elections?

In 2014, the BJP received 31 per cent of the total vote and claimed a national mandate. Sixty nine per cent of people voted against the BJP. The votes were fragmented and this is what we want to avoid. We have already started discussions with certain parties on how to avoid this.

The BJP has said that you are old, a businessman and a leader of yesteryear.

My entire political career has been very transparent. There are no charges or court cases against me. My life has been in the public domain for decades. Whatever I own is stated in the election affidavits. Nobody can point a finger at me, and that, I think is my biggest strength.