Ahead of assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, vice president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the party’s in-charge of the polls, Vinay Sahasrabuddhe alleged the Congress is not campaigning on issues of development and is trivializing the debate. Edited excerpts from an interview:

Five states are going to polls, of which three states have BJP governments; how difficult is the challenge?

BJP is known for playing its role in national politics very seriously and hence we take every election with equal seriousness and fight it to win, with all sincerity at our command. In that sense, every election is a challenge. But I must say that due to our strong organizational base, these state elections certainly are not extra-ordinarily difficult. We have leaders with high credibility count, governments with proven track record and party cadres motivated to make a difference through politics and governance. These factors give us the confidence to bring our governments back.

What are the major issues that will dominate the narrative in these assembly polls?

Very sadly, the Congress has opted for its favourite trick, that is trivializing the debate. They are refusing to talk about development, they can’t answer why Congress-ruled states have not reduced state taxes for petrol and diesel. They shy away from responding as to why their stand on “Urban Naxals" is ambiguous. They can’t tell us what are their plans for the aspiring youths of this state. Repeating allegations without any substance simply for the sake of mud slinging has left people wondering about the alternative vision of the Congress for development. Tragically, in their attempt to trivialize, they have taken a crass populist route and promised doing away with biometric attendance, a small but important administrative reform.

The BJP won 62 out of the 65 Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. How important are these elections before 2019 general elections?

Important beyond doubt. But then that is the case with several other states too. What favours us is the fact that our relationship with the people of these states is a time-tested one. They very well understand what we mean by politics of performance since it has been a part of their experience. Unlike other parties, they don’t have any doubts about our intentions. Naturally, we are confident that the good governance that we have resolutely tried to deliver, will ultimately attract voters towards us.

The BJP has three powerful chief ministers in Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh. Will this election be contested in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi or state CMs?

Obviously, state elections are essentially a verdict on the performance of state chief ministers. But as we all know the performance of even local self- government bodies shape public opinion. How could there be any watertight compartment?

The chief ministers of MP and Chhattisgarh have been in power for three terms. There is an entire generation which has only seen them. How will BJP reinvent itself in these two states?

The older generation is wise enough to tell the younger one about the days of deprivation during the Digvijay Singh rule. And when governments are time and again revisiting their development agenda in tune with the times, party moves along with the notion of continuity with change. CMs are symbols of party organization and parties represent an ideology and a policy view, at least in BJP where it’s democracy and not dynasty that rules the roost. In 2003, we fought on a bijli-sadak-pani agenda while post 2008, our emphasis was on taking Madhya Pradesh out of the ‘BIMARU’ tag (an acronym for the underdeveloped states of Bihar, MP, Rajasthan and UP). From river linking to irrigation and from administration reforms to agriculture reforms, our governments have always reinvented themselves while empowering people to climb up on the development ladder.

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