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'G For Gujarat, H For Himachal, I For India'
Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal began his Vishvas yatra on December 23, the day after Narendra Modi was sworn in as chief minister. Dhumal told Outlook that though Hindutva may not have the same impact it had in Gujarat, he expects Modi to be a star campaigner in next month's poll in Himachal Pradesh. Excerpts:
What will be the main message in your campaign?
In a highly literate state like Himachal, developmental issues will always dominate. So, we'll talk about what we have done.
Who will be your star campaigners?
Atalji and Modi. Atalji has great love for Himachal and comes to Manali every year. He has done so much for the state. Modi has an old connection. He was Himachal incharge when my government was formed. He knows every corner of the state.
How will Modi's Mian Musharraf rhetoric play out here?
The Mian Musharraf rhetoric in Gujarat was in a different context. But it'll work here too. It will be understood as referring to terrorism. Kashmir is next to us and we will say the Congress is soft on terrorism as they support the pdp government, which is releasing militants. Though we have had no strikes here, 1 lakh Himachalis serve in the army and they don't want a soft line on terrorism.
So you are relying on Hindutva?
Look, the Ram mandir issue never worked in Himachal. So, Hindutva can't be played to that extent. This is a completely Hindu-dominated state where 98 per cent are Hindus. Society can't be polarised. But people here are concerned about terrorism. They are unhappy over the Raghunath temple and Akshardham attacks.
How much of a fillip has the Gujarat result given you?
It has made a big difference. I feel Modi has put a reverse gear on Congress victories. Now the BJP is on a victory run—it is now G for Gujarat, H for Himachal and then I for India.
What about the infighting in your party?
Shanta Kumar is now in charge of the poll panel and he has been with me on my Vishwas yatra. All parties have groupisms but the problem has been solved.