Calling the Madhya Pradesh assembly elections a "big battle" against a formidable force, senior Congress leader Kamal Nath has said he is "hungry" to bring his party back in power in the state.
The Congress has been out of power in this vast state with about 5 crore voters since 2003 when it was ousted by the BJP. The grand-old party is making its all-out efforts to wrest control of the state from the BJP and has mounted an aggressive campaign for the November 28 elections for 230 assembly seats.
The BJP had won 165 seats in the last state elections in 2013 with 44.88 per cent votes, while the Congress had got only 58 seats with 42.67 per cent votes.
Nath, the state Congress chief and a key campaigner for his party, told PTI in an interview that he is a "party worker who is hungry to bring the Congress back in power in Madhya Pradesh".
He, however, evaded a direct reply to a question on whether he could be made the chief minister if his party wins the polls.
"(Congress president) Rahul Gandhiji will decide how it will happen," he said during his first campaign rally in the Budhni assembly seat in support of Congress candidate Arun Yadav.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the BJP candidate from Budhni and it has traditionally been known as a bastion of the saffron party leader who has been heading the state government for 13 years and is now eyeing his fourth term.
Yadav is Nath's predecessor in the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief post and the change of guard was undertaken by the party high-command in Delhi only a few months back.
Nath, a Member of Parliament (MP) from the Chhindwara constituency of the state, also hit back at the BJP over the recent controversy about the Congress party's manifesto proposing a ban on holding RSS 'shakhas' in government premises.
While some BJP leaders have alleged that the Congress wants to ban the RSS, Nath said his party was only wanting to implement a protocol that was also in operation during the regimes of two BJP CMs before Chouhan.
"They (BJP) are trying to incite people by telling lies. I have never said that we will ban the RSS. I have said we will do that is as per central government rules and what was prevalent in Ms Uma Bharti and Babulal Gaur's time," he said.
Chouhan had replaced Gaur as the chief minister in November 2005, while it Bharti who was made the chief minister after the BJP stormed to power in Madhya Pradesh in 2003 by ending the ten-year rule of the then Congress chief minister Digvijay Singh.
The Congress manifesto says that "the holding of RSS shakhas in government premises would be banned and the order regarding relaxation given to public servants to attend them will be revoked".
The then Congress government had banned RSS activities in government premises in Madhya Pradesh in 1981. The ban was later revived in 2000 by the then chief minister Digvijaya Singh under the Civil Services Conduct Rule.
Asked if it was a battle where everything of the Congress was at stake, Nath said, "There is nothing do or die in politics but certainly this is a big battle to expose this government who has cheated every section of society."
The 72-year-old Congress heavyweight, who has been elected to the Parliament nine times, said, "Today the question is that who do the people trust and I think the people have lost their trust in Shivraj Singh Chouhan ji and Modiji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi)."
Asked about his recent statement that his constituency of Chhindwara has seen better strides of development than chief minister Chouhan's assembly constituency, Nath said he was astounded by the under-development in Budhni.
"The people of Budhni and people of Chhindwara are witness to the great difference between Budhni and Chhindwara.
"In Chhindwara's development and Budhni's development there is a vast difference and the neglect of Budhni by the CM is not only surprising, it is shocking," he said.