Madhya Pradesh Assembly Elections: Congress confident of winning over 150 seats, says Kamal Nath

The Congress is confident of winning more than 150 seats in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly polls, due later this year, and the party would announce the names of candidates by September, newly-appointed president of the partys state unit, Kamal Nath, said today. The veteran leader maintained that he was not hungry for any post after the election and that his only aim was to serve the people of the state. The BJP-ruled state, which has a 230-member Assembly, is expected to go to the polls by the year-end. The Congress currently has 57 MLAs in the state. Nath said the Congress would launch its poll campaign on June 6 from Pipliya Mandi in Mandsaur district. We are confident of winning more than 150 seats in the Assembly polls. We are conducting a survey to zero in on the winning candidates. We will announce their names by September, he told a press conference here. Nath was responding to a question on the BJP setting a target of winning 200-plus seats in the state, where the saffron outfit is in power since 2003. The BJP had set a target of winning more than 150 seats in its strongest bastion, Gujarat. Everyone knows what happened there. They were reduced to less than 100 seats (in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly), the former Union minister said. Asked whether the Congress would have a tie-up with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) or other parties in Madhya Pradesh, he evaded a direct reply and said to take on the BJP, the party would have state-specific alliances, based on the prevailing local political situation. Nath also evaded a directly reply when asked whether he and Madhya Pradesh Congress Campaign Committee chairman Jyotiraditya Scindia would contest the Assembly polls. Nath and Scindia are currently Lok Sabha members from Chhindwara and Guna in the state respectively. The party president will take a decision on it, Nath said. He said the party would give tickets to those who had the potential to win and would not go by any other consideration such as which group they belonged to. That (group loyalty) would not be the criterion, Nath asserted as he sought to dispel suggestions that the opposition party was divided in different factions led by senior leaders like himself, Digvijay Singh, Scindia and Suresh Pachouri among others. The party would contest the polls by raising issues related to the farmers, youth, women and labourers, and also by highlighting the issue of corruption under the BJP rule, the Congress veteran said. It would not seek votes in the name of any individual, he added. Nath claimed that there was a high level of discontent among the people of Madhya Pradesh against the BJP government led by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. I have not seen such a level of unrest among the people in my entire political career. People are feeling cheated and this time they will not tolerate them (BJP), he said. Asked whether he would be the chief minister if the Congress came to power, Nath said, I am not hungry for any post. I am only interested in securing the future of the people of the state. I have taken (the responsibility in) Madhya Pradesh as a mission, the same way I had taken Chhindwara long ago and developed it. Chhindwara has the maximum number of skill development centres and a huge number of youth with jobs, he added. Nath said Congress president Rahul Gandhi would launch the partys poll campaign on June 6 from Pipliya Mandi in Mandsaur district. I have invited Rahul Gandhi to launch the campaign from Pipliya Mandi to highlight the plight of farmers, he said. Six farmers were killed in police firing in Pipliya Mandi on June 6 last year. Asked why was he given the responsibility of the state at a time when the Assembly polls were just a few months away, Nath said he took a lot of time to make up his mind on taking up the new post. If the Congress came to power, it would provide relief to the people by reducing the prices of petrol and diesel, Nath said. When the global price of crude is low, then why are the prices of petrol and diesel higher (in India) than Pakistan and other countries? he wondered. After coming to power, the Congress would set up a peoples commission to probe the corruption charges against the BJP leaders, Nath said, adding that the members of the public could also depose before it. Asked about his friendship with the chief minister, the Congress leader said he had many friends, including Chouhan.