We will get a positive vote because of our performance
From a Professor of English literature to the rough and tumble of politics, Prem Kumar Dhumal has come a long way. The two-time Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, with a reputation of being a liberal, contested his first election in 1984 and was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1989.
The Bharatiya Janata Party leader, whose main election plank is development, has been talking about shaping a new Himachal — self-reliant, modern and an international destination for education and tourism.
He spoke to SUJAY MEHDUDIA.How do you see the Lok Sabha elections in the State and what impact will the outcome have on the State and the national polity?
The focus is not only on local issues but also larger national issues and the prestige of the country. Under the UPA regime, the nation has lost respect in the international arena and terrorists have gained ground. Unemployment has gone up sharply and people are frustrated as the price rise has taken a toll on the common man. We will get a positive vote for our present performance in the State and that of the NDA Government in the past.Do you see the outcome of the polls as a referendum on the performance of your 14-month old Government?
There is no question of the parliamentary polls being a referendum on the performance of our government as the issues are very different and larger.
We have worked hard and provided relief to all sections of society in Himachal Pradesh. We are providing subsidised foodgrains for the poor along with edible oil and pulses. Some 13,000 vacancies have been filled up during the last 14 months providing employment to the youth. Relief has been given to senior citizens, farmers and a thrust given to upgrading education and infrastructure. We have managed to push through the railway line to Leh in Ladakh passing through our State. We are seeking votes on the basis of the work done by us and for the leadership of our Prime Ministerial candidate, L.K. Advani.What is the main grievance of the people of the State vis-À-vis the Central government during the last five years in comparison to the other special status States?
There is a growing sense of discrimination among the people in general. They feel that the UPA government has given Himachal Pradesh step-motherly treatment. The special industrial package granted to us till 2013 by the NDA Government was withdrawn and limited till 2010. We should be treated on par with other North-Eastern States but we are being discriminated against. There is a political bias against the State. Last year, rains wrecked havoc in the State and we had sent a demand for a Rs. 2,000 crore package, which was even supported by the Congress. But the UPA government did not even sanction a single penny and now they are spreading misinformation on grant of funds. Our rice allocation from the Central pool was drastically cut despite Himachal being a rice eating State. Our recruitment quota in the armed forces was curtailed despite our soldiers having made the maximum sacrifices to protect the integrity of the country. This is slowly building up into strong resentment and our peaceful nature should not be taken to be a weakness.What about the differences in the BJP in the recent past over the Prime Ministerial candidate, with the name of Narendra Modi cropping up?
There is no question of speaking in different voices on the issue. It is not only the BJP, but the entire NDA that has projected Mr. Advani as our leader and Prime Ministerial candidate. Mr. Modi has already clarified that he is not in the race and he is strongly behind Mr. Advani. Some BJP leaders have aired certain views, but they have made it clear that they were talking about the 2014 general elections. We will certainly form a Government at the Centre under the leadership of Mr. Advani and there should be no doubt about that in anybody’s mind.The Congress has levelled charges of corruption against you and your government in its campaign.
The Congress has always been in the habit of levelling baseless allegations and this is nothing new. This is just a manifestation of their frustration. Everyone knows that it was the Congress Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh, who was protecting a corrupt and inefficient police officer despite the CBI filing cases against him.
The Congress had five years in the State but they could not even come up with one instance of wrongdoing by my government during 1998-2003. It is all aimed at gaining cheap publicity, but the people of the State will teach them an appropriate lesson.