HP grew despite Covid, BJP bound to return: Jai Ram

Himachal Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur says he's confident he will break the jinx of no government getting back-to-back terms in the state in an interview with Pratibha Chauhan. Notwithstanding the grave financial health of the hill state, the CM is unveiling projects in every Assembly segment with barely two months left for the elections. Excerpts:

What makes you sure that BJP will come back to power in the state?

This trend of the BJP governments returning to power, be it in Uttarakhand, Haryana or Uttar Pradesh, is owing to the popularity of the PM. How can Himachal remain untouched by this trend, especially when the PM has a special emotional connect with the state, which he considers his second home. Besides, the Congress prospects will be marred as it is leaderless, visionless and deeply fragmented. Also, it doesn't have a big leader like Virbhadra this time.

The guarantees promised by AAP and Congress will have zero impact. People know what they are promising is not feasible and what was practical has already been undertaken

Will the BJP go in for major changes in ticket allotment?

Going by the trend in the states where elections were held, the possibility of this remains high. Barring caste and regional factors in some segments, ticket allotment will purely be on the winnability factor. Though I cannot give the exact number but 12 to 15 names could be changed.

What do you have to say about the prospects of AAP and the guarantees it is offering to entice voters?

The AAP campaign, which had picked up initially, has totally collapsed. The developments in Punjab have made the people of HP very sceptical about AAP. The guarantees promised by both AAP and Congress will have zero impact as people do not trust these parties. People understand that what they are promising is not feasible and what was practical has already been done by us.

How will you explain the BJP defeat in the Mandi Lok Sabha and three Assembly bypolls last year?

That happened primarily due to the huge sympathy factor that the Congress got in the name of Virbhadra Singh. With his wife as the candidate, the sympathy factor worked, especially in the tribal areas and Kullu. Despite the BJP leading in nine of the 17 Assembly segments, it lost.

What will be the main poll plank of the BJP?

Development is our biggest achievement, with every section of society benefiting from not one but several schemes. Besides, some mega projects like the Rohtang Atal tunnel, Bulk Drug Pharma Park, Medical Devices Park and AIIMS at Bilaspur are our achievements. All this has been achieved despite the Covid impact on the economy.

Don't you feel the anti-government stance of the employees could mar BJP chances? Is there a possibility of acceding to their demand for the 'old pension scheme'?

I admit that the employees were initially peeved at our regime and the Congress tried its best to instigate them. Whatever best we could do for the employees has been done. They too now realise that what the Congress is promising is not feasible.

Are your cadres demoralised with the induction of Congress and Independent MLAs? Will some more leaders join the BJP?

I agree that it has demoralised our cadres but there is bound to be resistance to anything new and now gradually things are settling. The possibility of some more Congress MLAs joining the BJP cannot be ruled out but we will not open our doors for one and all, that is certain.

Why are new schools, health institutions being opened despite the severe financial crunch?

I am against it and I tried to stop this trend initially but owing to political compulsions, I have had to give in. The state needs qualitative improvement and not quantitative expansion, which I will strive for in our next term.

Courtesy: Tribune News Service

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