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     Raipur, May 3, 2010: After intense war of words between two times Chief Ministers of undivided Madhya Pradesh and new Chhattisgarh, Digvijay Singh and Dr Raman Singh respectively, ChhattisgarhTopNews.Com decided to carry the complete article of the BJP Chief Minister.

     Following is the article of Chhattisgarh Chief Minister.

                                    HONEY, I SUNK BASTAR

                                    Dr. Raman Singh

                                    Chief Minister


     An article in the Economic Times, dated 14th April 2010 by Shri Digvijay Singh, the former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and AICC General Secretary, has invited fair amount of eye balls both within and outside the Congress party.

     As is his wont, Shri Digvijay Singh in quintessential Digvijay Singh style – doublespeak and pusillanimity have been a hallmark of this style (remember Batla house encounter) – concluded by saying that the views expressed in article are personal. Political circles are abuzz with speculation about the motive of the article.  Perhaps the article has more to do with internal politics and dynamics of Congress then with counter-Maoist strategy.

     It is for his colleagues in the Congress to decide whether the observations of Shri Digvijay Singh on Shri P Chidambaram are actually called for or in good taste. However, I hold no brief to defend Mr. P Chidambaram or his strategy. He is capable of defending himself.

     Shri Digvijay Singh’s article has evoked a strong reaction in Chhattisgarh in general and Bastar region in particular. The local media and intellectuals have condemned and dismissed Shri Digvijay Singh’s rhetoric and spin.

     Ambitious politicians like Shri Digvijay Singh are not content with their achievements.

     After systematically destroying Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh (when it was part of Madhya Pradesh), he is now ruling the roost in Delhi. Besides being an influential General Secretary of the Congress, it is widely believed that Shri Digvijay Singh is mentoring Rahul Gandhi. It is a different matter that in this part of the country, Shri Digvijay Singh – inspite of being associated with Chhattisgarh as Chief Minister when it was part of undivided Madhya Pradesh – has lost relevance long time ago. Barring few diehard loyalists like Charan Das Mahant, he is not taken seriously by anyone in Chhattisgarh.

     I am writing this article to counter his arguments and set the record straight. The likes of Digvijay Singh have enough mischief potential to distort facts, shape and steer public policy and opinion to support soft options, and vilify leaders. I see it imperative to call Shri Digvijay Singh’s bluff. Hence this rejoinder.

     Naxalism as an issue has several dimensions. However I restrict myself to Shri Digvijay Singh’s role and the naxal issue in Bastar.

     The raison-detre of Chhattisgarh was due to historic under-development and neglect of the region in erstwhile Madhya Pradesh. During seven years as Chief Minister of undivided Madhya Pradesh, Shri Digvijay Singh systematically exploited the natural resources of Chhattisgarh without ploughing anything back into this region. The seven years of Shri Digvijay Singh’s regime are considered a Dark Age in the history of Chhattisgarh. The only consolation for Chhattisgarh was that other parts of Madhya Pradesh were equal beneficiaries of his mis-governance and maladministration and remain underdeveloped.

     Madhya Pradesh is a landlocked state and during Shri Digvijay Singh’s tenure as CM, the joke was Madhya Pradesh cannot have border dispute with any of its neighbouring states as the roads in Madhya Pradesh with their hallmark potholes clearly differentiated it from neighbouring states.

     Shri Digvijay Singh Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister went on record saying development cannot fetch you votes. It was for this reason BSP (bijali, sadak, pani) was the main election issue in Madhya Pradesh in the 2003 Assembly elections.

     Shri Digvijay Singh is a good friend of mine but he is yet to share with me the secret of winning an election sans development. Congress under his leadership lost the 2003 Assembly elections and Shri Digvijay Singh’s 10-year tenure is best remembered as a decade of missed opportunities. People of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are still paying the price for it.

     Shri Digvijay Singh was not only Chief Minister but also Minister in charge of Bastar. It is a different matter that he can’t spell out a single contribution towards Bastar region or its people during the seven years of his governance.

     During his tenure, Bastar was treated as ‘Kalapani’ of Madhya Pradesh and was used only for punishing inconvenient officials. The administrative phrase during those days was “fall in line or you will be dumped in Bastar”.

     Shri Digvijay Singh did colossal damage to the fabric of Bastar and took it back to the medieval ages. The physical and social infrastructure was grossly neglected. There were several inputs on Naxals consolidating their presence in existing areas and also making inroads into new areas in the region but Digvijay Singh’s government slept over it. No efforts were made to upgrade the police infrastructure. The training and arms needs of police were systematically ignored; the price for which has been paid by several jawans and successive governments.

    It is thus ironical that the single biggest contributor to the problem of Naxalism in Bastar is now suggesting a remedy in the form of development which was never in his agenda when he was at the helm of affairs.

     It is Shri Digvijay Singh’s apathy and neglect of Bastar which provided a fertile ground for Naxalism to grow in Bastar in the 90’s. It is he who sunk Bastar in a morass. Thanks to Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Chhattisgarh was separated from Madhya Pradesh in November 2000 and the rest as they say is history.

    In the past seven years Chhattisgarh has grown from strength to strength. We have been largely able to contain Naxals in Southern Chhattisgarh or else the whole of state would have suffered.

     Shri Digvijay Singh in his article has written that the buck stops with the Chief Minister for law and order. It would be pertinent to ask Mr. Digvijay Singh who was the Chief Minister when the Transport Minister of Madhya Pradesh government was brutally killed by Naxalites in Balaghat in 1999. Where didthe buck stop then? Is it that the canons of responsibility and accountability are to be only conveniently remembered?

     If the grapevine is to be believed, Shri Digvijay Singh attended the cremation of Shri Kavere after a lot of persuasion and cajoling as he was not willing to travel in that area.

     There are many conspiracy theories behind Mr. Kavere’s death; many of which directly lead to Shri Digvijay Singh and the way he was dealing with Naxals.

     Shri Digvijay Singh has made malicious observations about Shri Baliram Kashyap, sitting MP of Bastar Lok Sabha. It is very unfortunate and only reflects the personal and political character of Shri Digvijay Singh to malign a man who has spent more than 40 years in public life and served as Member of Parliament, MLA and Minister. He epitomises bravery, simplicity and probity in public life.

     Shri Baliram Kashyap along with Shri Mahendra Karma (a prominent Congress leader) has always fought against naxals despite a serious threat to their personal life and security. Both the leaders have lost their family members in different naxal attacks.

     It is for his unflinching commitment to fight naxalism that Shri Baliram won the sobriquet of ‘Tiger of Bastar’. The allegations of Shri Digvijay Singh are unpardonable and inexpiable as he is not oblivious to the above facts.

      Shri Digvijay Singh further writes that “There are reports that in every election, the Maoists support goes to the highest bidder.” It would be interesting to ask Shri Digvijay Singh if he has any empirical evidence to support his statement.

     The Bastar region bore the brunt of Naxals for almost two decades and analysis of past three Vidhan Sabha elections throw some interesting results. In 1998 under the leadership of Shri Digvijay Singh Congress won 11 out of 12 legislative assembly seats in Bastar area. Is Shri Digvijay Singh unraveling the mystery of Congress party’s stupendous performance in the Vidhan Sabha Elections of 1998 in the Bastar region? The trend was reversed in 2003 elections as BJP won nine seats out of 12 in this region. The BJP further consolidated its position and in the 2008 assembly elections, won 11 out of 12 seats. The reasons for success of the Congress in Bastar in 1998 and earlier can best be explained by Shri Digvijay Singh.

     I was in-charge of the elections in 2003 and 2008. The landslide victory in the Bastar region was a decisive mandate against Naxal violence. My party has taken a very clear, categorical, unambiguous and consistent stand against Naxals. BJP has done exceedingly well for the same reasons in the Lok Sabha, urban local bodies and panchayat elections in the Bastar region.

     The insinuations of Shri Digvijay Singh are not only an insult to democracy but also to the people of Bastar. Shri Digvijay Singh is also disrespectful to the Election Commission which did an excellent job in conducting a free and fair poll in the most adverse circumstances.

     Our security forces did a commendable job in the most difficult of conditions. They lost seven jawans. An Air Force Flight Engineer also lost his life.  In fact, in 2008, for 90 Vidhan Sabha constituencies, elections were conducted in two phases for proper mobilisation and arrangement of security forces.

    In the past few years, the government has taken several concerted steps for the development of Bastar region. However, the story of pushing development and fighting Naxals is like a chicken-and-egg scenario.

     People like Shri Digvijay Singh sitting in Delhi can talk about development first without realising that unless the state is able to dominate and control the areas, development cannot be achieved. Development cannot be a pre-condition in the fight against Naxals.

     Over the years Naxalites have destroyed hospitals, schools and panchayat buildings. They have targetted roads and all government infrastructures. Most of these areas have become inaccessible to dispense government services. All talk about development without effectively tackling Naxalism is over-simplification and a manifestation of seeing the vexed problem of Naxalism through tinted glasses. These two are inter-connected processes and must continue in conjunction. Government is committed to the development of these areas and the district administration is doing everything possible in the most adverse circumstances.

     The massacre of CRPF jawans in the jungle of Chintalnar only proves the failure of soft options. The State has to fight Naxals with all its might and resources.

     The Naxals wanted to inflict a debilitating influence on the morale of the police. They also wanted to create political confusion in which they have been partially successful. Morale of the police is still very high and the government will do everything possible to strengthen them and take development to far flung areas.

     Chhattisgarh is committed to combat Naxalism. We are fighting it from 2004. The supreme sacrifice of CRPF jawans in Chintalnar and many other brave jawans earlier will not be allowed to go waste. Slowly and surely the forces of democracy will emerge victorious. It is a long battle and there are no soft options. We should be prepared for a long haul and more sacrifices. We should learn from Chintalnar and move on.

     However, it is the political ataxia being propounded by people like Shri Digvijay Singh and so called leftist sympathiser which is a cause of concern.

     Whether Shri Chidambaram is intellectually arrogant or not I have no hesitation to say that Shri Digvijay Singh is intellectually dishonest for a deliberate, motivated and deceitful article which not only misrepresents the facts but also maligns a towering personality of the Bastar region.

     I have absolute clarity on the strategy to combat Naxalism. The need of the hour is not over-simplification and knee jerk reactions but a calibrated multi-pronged strategy encompassing police action, social and economic development – not necessarily in this order – to combat naxalism. 

     I am willing to discuss and debate the issue of Naxalism with Shri Digvijay Singh at a time and place of his convenience.

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