Confident about toppling the trend of alternate governments in Himachal Pradesh—under BJP’s catchy slogan—Raj Nahin, Riwaz Badal Raha Raha, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said the BJP manifesto is going to be the biggest game-changer for the small state with “big dreams”. The false narrative being created by Congress on OPS will boomerang on the opposition. He spoke to Ashwani Sharma of Outlook at Shimla on how he thinks BJP will form the next government owing to the ‘double engine’ government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emotional connection with the state, and the government’s overall performance.
Why has the BJP promised Uniform Civil Code (UCC) and not the Old Pension Scheme (OPS)?
You see, we are a national party. The BJP has its own vision of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). Some of the BJP-ruled states like Uttarakhand and Goa—that returned to power after the February 2022 poll—have already announced the implementation of UCC. Gujarat—which is going to polls on December 1 and 5—has also set up a committee. Himachal Pradesh will also take it further.
The basic question on OPS is who implemented it in Himachal Pradesh? It was the Congress government led by Virbhadra Singh. The question arises if the decision to implement NPS (New Pension Scheme) was wrong, why did not Virbhadra Singhji scrap it when he came to power again between 2012-17, his sixth term? Yet, after the Employee unions represented us, we set up a committee under the Chief Minister. We are telling the employees to wait for the Committee's recommendations. I am sure a way out will be found soon.
Right now, it’s the BJP that is bearing the brunt of OPS in the polls over OPS.
Congress is trying to create this kind of impression. Duubte ko tinke ka sahara (a drowning man catches at a straw). Before elections were announced, I myself held talks with the employees and discussed the issue in detail saying, if at all a solution to the OPS is to be found, it will be by the central government and the BJP, no one else. The two state governments—Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have not been able to implement it despite the announcement. The issue certainly needs a resolution but how? We will see when the government is formed.
How much of the BJP’s Sankalp Patra (manifesto) will help you to win the poll?
Sankalp Patra is the BJP’s vision of making the state reliant. It resolves to empower women, youth, and farmers and takes care of the interests of government employees. We have listed out 11 resolves. There are promises like introducing 33 per cent reservation for women in the government, creating 8 lakh jobs, and removing irregularities in the salaries of the employees. Other promises include Rs 3,000 per year to small-scale farmers. Reduce GST to 12 per cent on apple packaging and start a Rs 900 cr corpus fund for start-ups and increase in financial aid to soldiers killed in the line of duty.
How is Sankalp Patra different from Congress’s Pratigya Yatra?
Every promise we have made has a basis from 50,000 suggestions received from the public. Our manifesto committee had invited open suggestions. Every single promise we made has proper study/data on beneficiaries and funds to be spent. The Congress manifesto lacks vision, weight and also doesn’t mention the beneficiaries and funds required. Thus, it’s totally misleading.
The Congress spokesperson has described Sankalp-Patra as a “rotten” document —a jumlebaazi.
(Laughs). It’s election time. The frustration is natural.
Do you think the BJP will really make it to beat the trend of change—Riwaaz Badlega, Raj Nahin in Himachal Pradesh?
We have a double-engine Sarkar, and strong leadership i.e. our Prime Minister. Above all, Modiji finds a home in Himachal Pradesh. He has a strong bond with the people, who also have an emotional connection. Our government has done exceptionally well. We were able to do such things, which even a six-time CM like Virbhadra Singh could not do. Despite this, Covid the development was not allowed to be stopped. I am sure the people will vote for kamal—the lotus.
Do you have any idea how many seats the party is winning?
Just wait for one or two more days. The picture will be very much clearer to the public. The opponents will also come to know where they stand.
Congress is talking about a strong anti-incumbency, unemployment, and inflation being big issues. The OPS alone will throw the BJP out of power.
The Congress could not do anything during its term except corruption, nepotism and favouritism. I am sure the people have not forgotten the ‘mafia raj’. Women were not feeling secure under the Congress rule.
Are you worried about the BJP prospects due to the rebel factor?
Not much. It’s unfortunate our efforts to persuade them did not pay off. Those contesting against the party have been expelled. Rather, Congress should be feeling worried about its rebels in the fray.
You are sure of becoming the Chief Minister again if BJP wins.
In 2017, the party gave me the responsibility to lead the government and work for the people of the state. I am sure I did a fairly good job. Prime Minister Modi ji has said it so many times at his public rallies. I wanted to do more, but my two years were lost in Covid. The only task in hand—given to me by the party—is to bring the BJP back to power. Beyond this, I know nothing.