Ambikapur: Around 8:15 p.m, despite the plummeting temperature, people gathered in large numbers to welcome sitting MLA Tribhuvaneshwar Saran Singh Deo, fondly known as Baba, at the house of Saivari Yadav on DC Road in Ambikapur district.
Deo was visiting as part of his election campaign and also to listen to the problems of the local people, being the sitting Congress MLA from the same constituency.
In an interview with Newsclick, Deo says his party is open to post-poll alliances. If in government, he is also in favour of a dialogue to address Left wing and promised to bring Acts to protect doctors, lawyers and journalists who have increasingly been facing threats in the state. Edited excerpts:
What are your poll promises?
Poll promises in itself is a very wide term. There are various issues on which the party will play on the front foot. Let us wait for the manifesto release and then talk about it.
You have been the MLA from this seat since the last two terms. You say you want to do social service but being the richest MLA of India, is it necessary to join politics and then engage in social service?
Politics is a larger canvas. If you have to serve the people of a larger area, then nothing is better than doing it through politics.
Doing social service by forming an NGO or any non-profit gives you a limited area of operation, but when it comes to politics, the bandwidth increases and you get a bigger area to operate.
What will be your priorities if your party comes to power?
The Congress party’s priority, if voted to power, will be the welfare of the public and the farmers.
You are the most sought after leader for Congress campaign in Chhattisgarh. It also looks like that you are the most eligible CM candidate. Has the party approached you on these lines?
The party is of the view that we should fight these elections on joint leadership. Our party president and other senior leaders had a discussion on this before the elections were announced and we all agreed to it.
It is upto the party leadership and cadre if they want me to take the onus of leading the state and I am ready for it.
What about Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a transgender candidate contesting against you?
It shows the strong democratic culture of our country. The BJP candidate has lost two times against me and my party members have tried to approach the transgender one with feelers. (Deo did not elaborate on the ‘feelers’ when asked by this reporter about the transgender candidate claiming that an offer of Rs 5 crore had been made for withdrawal of candidature.)
There are talks in the constituency about no development work being done by you. What do you have to say about this?
(Laughs) If I have done nothing then there would not have been this number of people here to welcome me. Some people are ‘naraaz’ (upset) with us, but let me make it clear that I was an MLA from a party which is not in power. And in such a situation, there are lot of difficulties with funds. We will bring smiles on their faces again.
What are your views on liquor prohibition in the state?
The Congress is of the view that total prohibition will be imposed in the state and the decision in rural or forest areas areas will be taken by the gram panchayats, as we do not want the tribals, who make their living by producing liquor from Mahua and other sources, to suffer.
The tribals and farmers are very much against the present government over the issue of MSP (minimum support price). What are your views?
The present government of the state (BJP-led Raman Singh government) has reduced the MSP on many products. The tribals and farmers of the state have been left to suffer because of it by the government.
We have included the issue of MSP in our manifesto and we are promising to increase the MSP on products if we form the government in the state.
Not just the issue of MSP, but issues related to farmers will be our top priority and we will bat on this issue.
To what extent will the Ajit Jogi-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance damage Congress’s vote bank?
Well, they are two different parties contesting together. One is from Uttar Pradesh, which has lost ground in its home state, and the other is struggling to regain its ground in Chhattisgarh. They are nowhere in the league. The fight in the state is between the BJP and Congress.
Is Congress also looking for post-poll alliances?
If there is no pre-poll alliance, it does not mean that there is nothing like a post-poll alliance. Our doors are not closed for like-minded parties.
How will you deal with the issue of community rights? People of your constituency have been facing the worst time ever.
I know you are talking about the Udaipur area of my constituency, but let me tell you that I have been going to that area and working for the rights of the people since the last 10 years. Yes, the people of Udaipur are, to some extent, against me, but not Congress. I will be going there in a couple of days and will sort out things.
If your party comes to power, will you set up a committee to probe into the alleged fake sedition cases slapped against journalists and activists?
This is a very good question. In fact, I was going to talk about this. See, we are going to bring in a Journalist Protection Act and protection Act for doctors and lawyers, too.
We have also included these points in our party manifesto which we will release soon.
As far as the alleged fake cases slapped against scribes and activists are concerned, we will probe them and after that, necessary steps will be taken as per the Constitution of India and Indian law.
Left wing extremism is the biggest issue in the state. How is Congress going to deal with it if it forms the government?
We will hold talks with the Left Wing Extremists (LWE). There has not been a single case in the world where any conflict issue was solved with violence or without holding dialogues.
Holding dialogues without any condition will be our first priority and if they (LWE) resort to use of force, then we will also deal with force.