Facing the challenge of retaining BJP’s dominance for the second consecutive term, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur says despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the state borrowed less than the previous Congress government.
Also the global investor summit of 2019 has started yielding results. Besides, the state and the people are fortunate to have benevolence and affection of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he added.
For Thakur, who believes development work and no witch hunting is the mantra for success, unprecedented development will remain the party’s main poll plank for this year’s polls to the 68-member Legislative Assembly.
“As far as the impact of Covid-19 on the economy is concerned, you know it was a global pandemic. Despite this, we have made a rapid recovery. Himachal’s economic growth rate for fiscal 2022-23 is estimated at 8.3 per cent,” Thakur told IANS in an interview on Saturday, the day party’s national President Jagat Prakash Nadda reached the state capital to prepare the roadmap for the Shimla Municipal Corporation and Assembly elections.
On the major challenges before him in the first year of rule, he candidly replied: “My government inherited a loan burden of over Rs 48,000 crore from the previous government due to unmindful expenditure and fiscal mismanagement.
“The first and the foremost task before our government after coming to power was to bring on track the derailed economy of the state. The previous government, in a desperate bid to woo the voters in its fag end of tenure, opened several colleges and institutions without making any budgetary provisions. The foremost task before my government was to make provision of budget for them.
“Also emotional integration was a major issue which needed to be redressed as the state was sharply divided on line of upper and lower Himachal and even on the colour of the caps.
“It is for the people to assess the success and results of the government and I am sure that the people of the state are wise enough to make their decision in the larger interest of the state.”
Five-time legislator Thakur, 57, who was elevated after the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal suffered an abject defeat in the 2017 Assembly polls, believes the state in over four years have made unparallel progress in all spheres of development after winning the people’s confidence.
“We are working in accordance with the basic mantra of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas’ given by Prime Minister Modi. Welfare schemes like social security pension, Jan Manch, Mukhyamantri Seva Sankalp Helpline — 1100, Shagun, Grihini Suvidha Yojana, Himcare, Sahara Yojna, etc., have provided much needed relief to every section of society,” said the first-time Chief Minister, who has 11 ministers — half of them first-timers.
“The achievements of the government during these four years have been acknowledged by various central and independent agencies. Even the NITI Aayog has appreciated the work of the state in the health and education sectors.
“During these years my government has accelerated the pace of development, created resources of employment and self-employment for the youth, strived to make the state self-reliant and give development a human face. Special focus has been laid on completion of ongoing projects and ensuring optimum exploitation of tourism, power, industrial and agro potential of the state.
“The long-pending demands and problems of the employees have been redressed and they have been provided benefits of revised pay scale and honorarium of para-workers has been increased.”
As far as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is concerned that is now setting its eyes on conquering hills of Himachal Pradesh after demolishing the citadels of all major political parties in Punjab, an optimistic Thakur, to whom the central leadership reposed faith by bringing generation change in the state politics, said situation in Punjab was different.
“The issues of hilly areas are entirely different and people of the state earlier also have rejected the third front in the state,” he said.
“During the last over 50 years, many political parties tried to climb the mountains of Himachal Pradesh but have failed miserably. The leaders of AAP are over enthusiastic after their victory in Punjab, but they should also remember that their candidates have not only lost on all seats in the recent Assembly polls in Uttarakhand but their security deposits were also forfeited.”
On getting free hand from the high command to lead the party in the upcoming Assembly elections, the plain-speaking Thakur told IANS that the BJP is a political party with a difference and the organisation decides the responsibilities to be assigned to each and every worker.
“All have to carry out our responsibilities with utmost dedication and commitment. Whatever responsibilities are given, there is complete freedom to work according to the post. Contrary, the Congress party is a party run by a family, which decides and keeps running every party affair remotely.
“As far as recent by-elections to the state Assembly and Lok Sabha were concerned, the circumstances were different as the Congress was fighting the elections on sympathy wave after the demise of Virbhadra Singh, a six-time Chief Minister and senior Congress leader. The circumstances now in the general elections will be entirely different.
“The party will work with greater dedication and commitment to ensure success of ‘Mission Repeat’ in the state, like it has achieved in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa.”
The Chief Minister is confident that the party will once again form the government.
The reason he believes is the need for a ‘double engine government’ for better development of the states.
“Despite the pandemic, the state succeeded in getting approval of several developmental projects from the Centre. People of the state want to keep this momentum going and will definitely opt for the BJP in the 2022 elections.”
On BJP’s main agenda while going to the polls, he replied: “Unprecedented development the state has witnessed during this period will remain the main agenda of the BJP in the elections. The BJP has not only emerged as the biggest political party of the world, but its government headed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ensured that the nation regains its old glory.
“We are working on the same motto and giving human face to development and making Himachal Pradesh a frontrunner state in the country on development. On the other hand, the Congress is a leaderless, issueless and directionless party which has no base at the Centre as well as the state.”
The Prime Minister considers Himachal Pradesh his second home and always showers his blessing on the state.
“On the occasion of completion of the four-year term of our government, the Prime Minister in Mandi laid the foundation stones and inaugurated projects of over Rs 11,000 crore. The Centre has sanctioned several projects which includes AIIMS at Bilaspur, the Atal Tunnel Rohtang that connects Kullu Valley with Lahaul Valley, a medical device park, many four lanes and ropeways. We are expecting another visit of the Prime Minister to the state in next one or two months and hoping some major announcement for the state,” Thakur added.
The BJP had won a majority in the 2017 Assembly polls with 44 seats in the 68-member state Assembly.
Thakur is the first Chief Minister from Mandi, the second biggest district of Himachal after Kangra. Earlier, Chief Ministers hailed from Shimla, Kangra and Sirmaur districts.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)