Modi ji’s leadership, Jai Ram Thakur’s performance will bring party back to power in Himachal –Suresh Kashyap
The 51-Year-Old Himachal Pradesh BJP president Suresh Kashyap has a crucial task in hand to keep the party in full preparedness for the next assembly polls slated by end of the year. He is also required to team up with Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and strike a balance, coordination and execute all ground level organizational tasks for outreach of the cadres to the masses. Kashayp is also first-time MP from Shimla and earlier two-time MLA from Pacchad in Sirmaur district. Low profile BJP politician with his background as an Indian Air Force personnel, Kashyap says the party is not only ready for the poll but also to form the next government to take BJP’s splendid election victory of the BJP in UP, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa to greater heights by repeating the government in Himachal Pradesh. Senior independent journalist Ashwani Sharma spoke to Suresh Kashyap in Shimla this week, amidst his busy work schedules and long touring. Excerpts:
State assembly elections are almost knocking at the doors in Himachal Pradesh. How is party’s preparedness
Absolutely We are very much closer to the elections. The party is ready for the polls.We are working not just to win the elections but to form the next government in Himachal Pradesh –a state where people believed the incumbent government never returns to power after five year rule. Our Mission Repeat 2022 is aimed to make history this time. “Satta nahin Riwaaj badalenge is our slogan” (we will change the custom instead of power). The old tradition of Congress replacing BJP alternatively is gone.
What is basis of such a confidence
There are several reasons. We have a very strong national leadership. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proved that the BJP performs and gets chosen again by the people. Today, besides carving out an image for himself as a global leader, Modi has also enhanced India’s position in the world since 2014. Then, our Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has worked hard. Under his leadership, the government taken several new initiatives, look after all sections, underprivileged,deprived, SCs, STs, OBCs and also the upper castes. He did not let the development stop even during the Covid pandemic –a situation which none of earlier governments had faced. Himachal Pradesh attained number one position in covid vaccination. Prime Minister has called the state as champion.
Congress says no development happened in the state during the past four and half years?
(Laughs) Congress neither has leadership nor ideology. The party is vanishing from the country state after state. You will see its fate meeting a dead-end also in Himachal Pradesh. Their criticism is only to make headlines in the newspapers and prove some existence in the state. I can say after Virbhadra Singh, who was a leader with vision and mass base,the party has got torn in factions. The divide is very clear. Some of the party leaders have already got sidelined and others are fighting for their own politics.
Well, they are projecting a united image and preparing to fight a poll under a collective leadership.
It’s a myth. Has so-called collective leadership paid off the party in any of the states which went to the polls this year? The newly named PCC president Pratibha Singh and her son Vikramaditya Singh are trying to run their own show vis-a-vis party to encash on Virbhadra Singh legacy. The younger leaders viz Mukesh Agnihotri, who is also Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader and former PCC president Sukhwinder Sukhu are not prepared to work under Pratibha Singh. They also have ambitions to be Chief Minister should congress form the next government.Rest all fizzling out.
Congress leaders rather says there is more factionalism in the BJP
The Congress is living with strong misconception about itself ,and also about the BJP. We are a cadre based party and highly disciplined organisation. There is no scope for factionalism.
What is the biggest advantage this time against all earlier elections, when the party could not return to power under Prem Kumar Dhumal or Shanta Kumar?
Our current leadership has put the party at a very strong footing to break all previous myths. We have worked hard all these years to expand the party base. The 2017 elections have proved that the BJP has finally come -up its age. It has won the trust of the hearts of the people. Look at the margins with which we own 2019 Lok Sabha seats. It’s a history in itself. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP national president J P Nadda (who hails from Himachal Pradesh), Shanta Kumar ji, Prem Kumar Dhumal ji, Anurag Thakur and so many others are our strengths. Now, see where doesn’t the congress stand in comparison to the BJP. Secondly, we will be going to the polls with a powerful report-card of the works done by the central government and also the state.
Do you think the BJP victory in four states will also be an advantage?
It will be greatly helpful .The BJP has broken all previous records in UP, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa. This is all because of Modi’s leadership and welfare schemes launched by the centre. Every section got benefited by these schemes and their implementation by the BJP governments there. Himachal Pradesh has gone much beyond these schemes taking several new initiatives whether it was about Covid vaccination, giving free ration, free LPG to left-over families, medical care, cash benefits, MGNREGA, Rojgar guarantee scheme for urban poors and HIMCARE.
How will you counter issue of price rise which had hit a common man
Inflation has been an issue in every election,even when we fought against the incumbent congress. But, our government at the centre has taken several initiatives to improve buying capacity of poors, given free ration during Covid and even after. The PM housing scheme has been a big, free vaccination has been lauded by WHO and there have been much more efforts to arrest the inflation in the country.
You said the party is fully geared-up for the elections. Can you elaborate?
Yes. We are in the middle of major organizational programmes started two months back. Panna pramukh sammelans and Tridev Sammelans have been held at parliamentary constituency level, soon we will have panch-parmeshwar sammelans, All frontal organisations and morchas—Mahila morcha, SC/ST/ OBC/ Minorities etc will also hold their sammelans in the state, there will be youth rally of one lakh to be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. We are going to have a sammel of beneficiaries of all 16- central government schemes. Party national president has held roadshows in Shimla, Dharamshala and Kullu. He will be coming again. The Prime Minister has held two rallies and road shows within a month’s time. He (Modi) is arriving again very soon to inaugurate AIIMS Bilaspur, Home minister Amit Shah also will be in Himachal next month and other ministers including Anurag Thakur will be travelling to the state. Then top organizational leaders have their schedules.
What is the status of the proposed Bulk Drug park – one of mega projects worth Rs 10,000 cr proposed by the centre
It’s coming soon. The Bulk drug park will be a game changer for Himachal Pradesh, its economy ,Industrial (Pharma sector) and employment generation. We already has got Medical Devices Park worth Rs 500 cr, Renuka Dam project of Rs 1,224 cr, AIIMS, PGI satellite centre and seven medical college. Rohtang Tunnel –a gift of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Himachal Pradesh was commissioned by Modi ji.
Does not BJP’s defeat in Mandi Lok Sabha bypoll and party failure in three assembly bypoll last year haunt the party ahead of elections ?
Not at all. We have moved much beyond it. Pratibha Singh, former CM’s wife contested as congress candidate from Mandi on sympathy factor of Virbhadra Singh and people voted on emotional lines. Thereafter, the party had done many corrections noticed in the campaign. The byelection results are a good wake-up call for us.
Some people say assembly elections may be advanced
I don’t think so .The elections will be held on time .We will also wait for the Election Commission of India’s decision. Till, then, we will be in full poll mode as far as the party is concerned.
Is BJP afraid of facing Shimla Municipal Corporation elections, which were scheduled in May-June 2022?
There was a matter in the High Court. Now, a decision of the court has come. I think the state Election Commission will take a call. Why should the BJP be afraid of polls. He had won Shimla MC first time in 2017 and we will win again?
What will be AAP’s fate in Himachal Pradesh?
AAP fate is very much written on the walls. Did you not see what happened in Punjab where they lost the Lok Sabha bypoll so badly? Their downfall has already begun in Punjab itself. They will end up as non-starter in Himachal Pradesh. Our fight will be with the congress alone.