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Firmly in saddle for 11 years, Shivraj unfazed with questions on critical issues

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Political Correspondent

BHOPAL: Firmly in saddle and propped by the recent bypoll wins, Shivraj Singh Chouhan who completed 11 years as CM on Tuesday, faced a barrage of critical questions from journalists but remained unfazed and tackled them somewhat dismissively.

He was participating in a meet-the-press programme of Bhopal’s Central Press Club.

On most of the questions regarding serious issues like malnutrition, skewed sex ratio, poor fiscal health of the state, ‘non-cooperative’ bureaucrats, failure to attract investments despite foreign tours and expensive investors’ meet and recent encounter of SIMI men, he seemed to circumvent the issues.

The pet answer that he came up with was ‘government was serious on issues, doing its best and things were better than earlier’.

There were many questions – most of them lengthy and descriptive – but the CM came up with short and generalized answers.

Among specifics, Chouhan said that success of Laadli Laxmi scheme (for girl children) made him happy while the Petlawad blast (in Jhabua in 2015), which killed nearly 90 persons was the saddest time in his tenure.

When asked about the government’s poor performance regarding creation of jobs and its failure in health and education sectors, Chouhan rejected the charge and said that a lot had been done in these sectors, especially, in improving the salaries of contract teachers and facilities in government hospitals.

Asked to comment on the available figures that 4,000 schools in MP have no teacher and 19,000 other schools have just one teacher, Shivraj Chouhan insisted that there was no school without teacher in MP.

On SIMI encounter

On why he termed SIMI under-trials as terrorists even though court hadn’t held them guilty, Chouhan seemed to dither. He later suggested that ‘because of acts of people, the perception is formed’.

On Fiscal health of the State

Regarding government taking loans to finance developmental projects, Shivraj claimed that there was no major financial crunch in MP and the loan sought were within set limits.

 On health indicators

The severe malnutrition in MP was a question he was repeatedly asked. Chouhan said that steps were taken and serious efforts made to improve the situation. On poor sex ratio, he said that schemes alone can’t bring about transformation, as mindsets too need to change.

On failure to get investments

Chouhan claimed that global investors’ summits had brought investment and his visits to foreign countries for the same purpose, were fruitful. “I feel that increasing area under irrigation which resulted in higher rate of agricultural growth in MP, has been a success of my regime”, he added.

On promotion in reservation

On the issue of promotion in reservation, Chouhan refused to comment, saying that the matter was sub-judice.

 On Bureaucracy

The CM rejected the charge that bureaucracy was untamed. “I managed to get all the important schemes implemented through bureaucrats”, he said. He didn’t respond to a query about his earlier announcement that corrupt officials’ property would be confiscated.

On being the sole poll campaign face

When asked why there he had to personally campaign in every poll—either municipal or Lok Sabha, Chouhan said that he felt it was his duty as leader and this doesn’t mean lack of leadership in the State BJP.  

On his changed equation with Advani

'After Narendra Modi became PM, either Advani has stopped coming to MP or you have stopped calling him. What’s the reason”, asked a journalist. Chouhan said that Advani was a respected leader for him and that there was no such issue.

On apprehension about retaining his position

In the long press conference, Chouhan faced a volley of questions ranging from politics to his personal feelings. “Do you worry that your chair would be taken away by someone?” “No, never”, he quipped.

“Is 6, Shyamla Hills now a permanent residence for you. Nobody is able to dislodge you”. Chouhan replied, “it is the people that sends leaders to the positions. No place is permanent”, he added.

New schemes and plans

He said that the State government would start scheme to finance talented students who don’t get admission in colleges due to financial crunch. He also said that every person born in MP should be able to have a house, and in cities multi-storey buildings could be built to cope with demand under the government’s susbidised schemes.