New Delhi, Jan. 17: Arun Jaitley has challenged Digvijay Singh to jointly tour the Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh and the BJP-governed Himachal Pradesh.
The purpose of the tours is to “uncover” the “truth” about the state of development and social indices in the two poll-bound states so that people could test out claims and counter-claims for themselves, the BJP general secretary and spokesperson said.
Jaitley threw the challenge after the Madhya Pradesh chief minister accepted his invitation for a debate on development in his state and asked him to fix a date and time.
Today, Jaitley told the media that it was not enough to just engage in a debate of words and something more “concrete” was necessary to highlight the development issue. Therefore, he urged Singh to travel with him so that the chief minister could see for himself the “contrast” between the two states.
Earlier this week, Jaitley had released comparative data on Madhya Pradesh and Himachal to make his point. He claimed that under Prem Kumar Dhumal, the per capita income of Himachal rose and it moved from 16th to eighth position on the national map.
The BJP spokesperson said that under the Congress, the power generation was 299 MW while under the BJP rule, it went up to 8,000 MW because of various projects started by Dhumal.
Madhya Pradesh, he alleged, had failed to attract investment because it was tardy on creating infrastructure. Himachal, in contrast, left the state behind, despite its hilly terrain, Jaitley claimed.
The emphasis on development, BJP sources maintained, was meant to put the Congress on the “backfoot” in Madhya Pradesh. The BJP’s case was Singh had raked up “soft Hindutva” and unveiled a slew of schemes for Dalits as “diversionary” tactics.
“The real problem is development. Thanks to media management and creating a hype of his invincibility, people outside Madhya Pradesh have no idea of just how bad things are on the ground. May be he’s done a few good things in education but that’s all. On all other social indices, Madhya Pradesh is way behind Himachal,” the sources said.
The Hindutva-development polemics goes back to Gujarat. The BJP felt it “cleverly” managed to deflect attention from the Congress’ charge of malgovernance and failure on economic fronts (cooperative bank scams, bad drought management, low procurement price for farmers, etc) by bringing Hindutva on the centrestage.
In Madhya Pradesh, it hoped to adopt a different strategy— shift the focus from Singh’s brand of soft Hindutva (promise of an Islamic university balanced with the need to build a Ram temple) to development “because that will hurt him the most”, the sources said.
But a more realistic assessment within the party was whenever it tried to play the development card it failed. “If the Congress loses Madhya Pradesh, it will be not because of the BJP but because of its 10- year rule,” they said.
The other catch was whether its proposed chief ministerial candidate — Uma Bharti — could effectively talk of development. The sources said her persona, more than any other issue, symbolises hard Hindutva.