Shimla: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur believes that there is “no place” for a third political party like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in his state, which is facing assembly elections, and the Congress’s support base has also shrunk. Is.
Thakur said in an interview to ThePrint that the BJP would change Himachal’s custom of changing the government every time in the assembly elections and would come to power for the second time in a row. But, at the same time, said that one custom is not going to change- there is still a direct contest between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress as people will ‘never accept a third party’.
When ThePrint met Thakur at Shimla’s historic Peterhof Hotel last week, shortly before he attended a Himachal BJP core group meeting to chalk out a strategy for the assembly elections proposed in November.
Dressed in typical Western-style attire and a waistcoat, Thakur was busy accepting the greetings of all the office bearers there, but he spoke at length about the upcoming elections.
Although he deeply criticized rival political parties, he kept his tone very modest. He said the Congress has no future, and added that it is going through a “difficult phase”. He said, ‘His time is running out.’ Regarding AAP, he said that although there is no chance for this party here, but the good thing is that ‘they should try and see’.
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He also spoke openly about the BJP’s electoral preparations, the party’s defeat in the by-polls last year, their alleged clashes with the state bureaucracy and whether the return of party veteran and two-time former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal is possible.
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‘AAP has neither leader nor worker’
Earlier this week, the Aam Aadmi Party became the first party to announce its list of candidates for the Himachal Pradesh elections. The party has also campaigned vigorously here (Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann has visited the state thrice) and has announced several free facilities.
But Thakur said that all this does not make any difference to him. He also pointed to the defection of several party men earlier this year, which forced the AAP to dissolve its former working committee in April before being reorganized.
“They are trying to establish a foothold in the state, but before anything can happen, their leadership split and their leaders joined other parties,” he said. He has neither a leader nor a worker in the state. The good thing is that they are trying and there is no harm in keeping trying. But Himachal has never accepted any third party in its history. There is no place for third party and people do not take it seriously.
‘Congress is giving guarantee but they have no guarantee of their own’
A few weeks ago, Himachal Congress chief Pratibha Virbhadra Singh had announced a 10-point ‘guarantee’ if voted to power in the state, which included 300 units of free electricity, monthly financial assistance of Rs 1,500 for women, creating five lakh jobs and government Restoration of old pension scheme for employees etc. is included.
When asked about this, Thakur said in a sarcastic manner, “Those who are giving guarantees do not have any guarantees for themselves. In the states where they are in power, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh also, are they giving 300 units of free electricity and 1500 rupees to women? People have no faith in these hollow promises. We have implemented the promises made in our manifesto.
He further said that the Congress is going through the most difficult phase in its history at this time.
Referring to the eight Congress MLAs in Goa joining the BJP and senior Congressman Ghulam Nabi Azad leaving the party, he quipped, “They are organizing Bharat Jodo programmes, but their leaders are engaged in Quit Congress.” He told that two Congress MLAs, including state working president Pawan Kajal, have joined the BJP in Himachal last month.
“Congress has no future in the country and will be rejected in Himachal too,” he said.
According to him, this time another thing going to hurt the Congress in the election campaign is the absence of party veteran and former CM Virbhadra Singh, who passed away last year.
Jai Ram Thakur said, “There is an absolute lack of leadership in the Congress. The party leadership is not united in Himachal and they have no face left. Virbhadra Singh was his face. Congress has now reached such a situation in Himachal that it does not even have any face to contest the elections. But BJP has a strong leadership.
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‘We will change the custom’
In Himachal Pradesh, power has alternated between the BJP and the Congress every five years since 1990, but Thakur believes that era is over.
“A new custom has developed under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi…people are returning to power with a new mandate,” he said. Pushkar Singh Dhami got another term in Uttarakhand. Yogiji ended the era of changing governments in Uttar Pradesh. Sawantji (Pramod Sawant) returned to the government in Goa again. The trend has changed from Haryana to Manipur. And this time it will change in Himachal also.
When asked what is the BJP’s basic message for the voters of Himachal in this election campaign, Thakur said, “The only message we want to give is that this government is for the poor and for the poor.” Some powerful people thought that only they have the right to rule in Himachal, but voters have proved them wrong.
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‘There’s a difference between distributing free ravies and empowering them’
Talking about the election campaign in the state, Thakur elaborated on the BJP’s “welfare schemes”, including providing 125 units of free electricity. Simultaneously asserted that these are different from the promises made by other parties to distribute ‘Rewaris’.
He said, “The announcements of Congress and AAP are only Revadi, but BJP is trying to empower women and poor sections of the society by giving them some benefits. And it’s not free. We have announced to halve the bus fare for women, but still some fee is charged by the transport department.
“As far as electricity is concerned, we are supplying it to Haryana, Delhi and Punjab. We have announced some relaxation to help the poor and middle class, but it is not for those categories who can pay. Congress and AAP have announced free electricity to all….that is the difference between distributing ravadis and empowering them.
Thakur also said that BJP’s welfare announcements are more credible than other parties as people “trust Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promises and his track record”.
“The Prime Minister has a strong relationship with Himachal. They gave Scheduled Tribe status (approved) to the Hatti community, which they had been demanding since 1967.
He also claimed that the Himachal BJP government was giving pension to around 7.5 lakh people by spending Rs 1,300 crore, while the Congress was spending only Rs 400 crore when it was in power.
Thakur said, “We have given Ujjwala Yojana (clean cooking fuel) to every woman. Himcare scheme (for health care) is giving up to Rs 3,000 to 20,000 to destitute people under the Sahara scheme.…Baddi has become a pharma hub (with the help of the central government), an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Ready for inauguration. This Congress should tell the people what it has done for Himachal.
Asked whether he felt that his government had performed poorly in any sector, the chief minister said tourism was not given the attention he wanted, but he expects it to improve in his next term. .
He said, ‘Due to Kovid, we could not do enough work on tourism. But we have decided that apart from the already established tourist places, some more places need to be developed as tourist destination, as it has more potential for employment generation.
According to him, it is also very important to improve connectivity for this. “If we want to create new tourist destinations, we should have a big airport, which we are developing in Mandi,” he said.
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‘The morale of the cadre increased, people are also responding’
In November last year, the Himachal BJP suffered a setback when it lost the Mandi Lok Sabha seat along with the Fatehpur, Arki and Jubbal-Kotkhai assembly bypolls.
When asked about this, Thakur attributed the Congress victory to the “wave of sympathy” caused by the death of Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha’s fielding. People were paying ‘homage’ to Virbhadra Singh, but now there is no such sympathy wave, he said.
However, he admitted that the defeat had “awakened” him and motivated the party leaders to work harder and the response has been positive.
He said, ‘During Kovid, we made every effort to help the people. Now, at the time of elections, politicians have no clear idea of the mood of the people, but we are feeling that most of the people are joining our campaign with enthusiasm and it gives us confidence.
There is definitely a lot of pressure on Thakur and it is even more so because BJP President J.P. Nadda hails from Himachal Pradesh and has been the state chief in the past, and hence the party’s victory has become a matter of prestige in particular.
“I have performed as per the expectations of the party high command to form the BJP government in the state,” he said. This time also the party has given me the responsibility of leading the state. There was a shortcoming in our efforts in the past that we could not form successive governments in the state. This time we will rectify that mistake too.
To speculations that former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who was touted as the chief ministerial candidate in 2017 but lost his seat from Sujanpur-wanting to contest the assembly elections this time, Thakur’s reaction was mild.
“Dhumalji is a senior leader of the party. He has always played an important role and we take his guidance. Any decision on this matter (Dhumal contesting elections) will be taken by the party high command… and whatever decision is taken, all leaders will accept it.
on bureaucratic issues
There is often speculation in Himachal Pradesh that Thakur is unable to properly control the state’s bureaucracy. For example, earlier this month a former additional chief secretary, who had been superseded for the top post in the administration, wrote to the governor on the matter. Last month, there was also a controversy regarding the post of Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission (HPPSC) chairman.
Asked about the perception that it is difficult to rein in the bureaucracy, Thakur said, “At times, the bureaucracy has a tendency to delay decisions, make some excuse or the other in implementing decisions…we have done it. Have seen this many times. But my question is different. There is a general belief that the bureaucracy does not listen to the CM, but is it possible to run the government by suppressing the bureaucrats? Bureaucratic abuse? This is not the right way. We have worked as a team and also punished the bureaucrats who did not work honestly.
Thakur said that it is the Congress which has been spreading the fact that it and even Dhumal have been in conflict with the bureaucracy, while Virbhadra Singh was such a strong CM who kept the civil servants under control. He said, ‘I want to ask the Congress people that if he (Virbhadra) was so powerful, why was he not able to bring back the Congress government in the state?’
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