Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jairam Thakur has a big battle ahead. The hills of Himachal have huge posters of PM Narendra Modi, making it clear the Bharatiya Janata Party’s biggest mascot is fighting this election for his party and for Thakur.
Ahead of his campaign trail, Thakur spoke to CNN-News18 about the elections, the party’s prospects and mood.
Himachal Pradesh will vote in a single phase on November 12 and the results will be out on December 8.
It is clear that PM Modi is campaigning for the BJP again. He’s the biggest face. We saw that in Uttarakhand, the election was fought by Narendra Modi ji. The CM lost, but the BJP won in Uttarakhand, with a huge margin. And here he is campaigning for you…
Narendra Modi is a name that is not only in the heart of our country today, but the name has an identity internationally as well. As far as the elections are concerned, we can’t imagine going forward without his face and name. He has left such an impression on people that we are fortunate that we get results just on his name. The whole campaign in Himachal is going on in full-swing and the great thing is that Himachal loves Modi ji. He has an amazing connection with Himachal because he worked here and he is emotionally connected with Himachal Pradesh.
We saw some posters. On the one end, there’s Narendra Modi’s face and on the other, there is Congress’s hand. If the BJP wins, you will become the CM again. My question to you is that you will offer 125 units of free electricity if you win. Is this not revadi that PM Modi himself is opposed to?
We can’t look at this as revadi. We have provided relief to one section. We observed things very carefully. In HP, a poor household consumes 50-60 units of electricity. This means, whoever has three-four bulbs in their house takes up 50-60 units of electricity. And the middle-class consumes 100-120 units. Himachal Pradesh contributes 11,000 megawatts to the 45,000 megawatts produced in the country. As a power state, we work on a lot of things, so we decided to give relief to one section of society. Giving 300 units is revadi. But 125 units is the requirement for the section that is below the middle class and we just decided to help them.
Giving 300 units is revadi. But 125 units is the requirement for the section that is below the middle class. We just decided to help them.
The Congress has promised 1 lakh government jobs in Himachal. What is your counter?
They say this before every election. Before the 2012 elections, they promised government jobs to one person in every household. They were in power for five years. Did they do that? They said they will provide jobs to the unemployed. Did they do that?
You’re saying that these are just empty promises?
People don’t believe what the Congress says. They released their manifesto, but people just threw it in the bin. I asked some people whether they read the Congress’s manifesto and they said there’s no point reading it because they won’t do anything.
हिमाचल की जनता ने तय कर लिया है कियुवाओं को बेरोजगार रखने वाली BJP नहीं, रोजगार देने वाली कांग्रेस सरकार चाहिएपुरानी पेंशन छीनने वाली BJP नहीं, OPS लागू करने वाली कांग्रेस सरकार चाहिएमहंगाई लाने वाली BJP नहीं, महंगाई से राहत देने वाली कांग्रेस सरकार चाहिए
कांग्रेस आ रही है। pic.twitter.com/HJJsPwuxc4
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) November 7, 2022
But unemployment is an issue. It is an important issue that concerns you.
Definitely, it is an issue. And it is a global issue. Price rise and unemployment are global issues as well. And they are the issues in every election. But despite this, we have done good work to provide employment to the youth. We provided employment to 60,000 youngsters in the past five years despite the pandemic.
We can see a sense of entrepreneurship here. We can see a culture of start-ups now in Himachal, so how are you promoting that in the form of eco-tourism? What is the big takeaway on the start-up front?
There are a couple of things. Firstly, we have accepted and everyone else too needs to accept that we can’t provide a government job to every unemployed person. To help them stand on their feet, we have started a ‘Mukhyamantri Swaab Number Yojana’, where we give a loan of Rs 1 crore. If a young person wants a loan, we give them 25% subsidy, and if it is a woman or a widow, we give 35% subsidy. This scheme caught up and people now want to build their own start-ups or have already started their start-ups. Ever since we started this scheme, 10,000 people have gotten employed. When someone starts their own business, they hire 20-25 people. This scheme has been beneficial.
Priyanka Gandhi gave a statement in Himachal that if the Congress comes to power in the Centre, they will withdraw the Agnipath scheme. Himachal will contribute the most to the Agniveer recruitment. How do you see this statement?
Nobody took it seriously. They tried to create an atmosphere against the scheme, but as soon as the youth saw the implementation, they said it was good. They saw that if they serve in the military, they will be soldiers and after that, they will get job opportunities in both the private and government sectors. The central and the state governments ensured that. We need young people and energy in the Army. It is a necessity. And the youth will get job opportunities everywhere. They will have multiple options. The youth understands the Congress tries to politicise everything and polarise everyone. Army recruitments should not be politicised. It is wrong.
If a young person wants a loan, we give them 25% subsidy. If it is a woman or a widow, we give 35% subsidy. Since we started this scheme, 10,000 people have gotten employed because when someone starts their own business, they hire 20-25 people. This scheme has been beneficial.
Your political opponent, the Congress, is also promising that the old pension scheme (OPS) will be implemented. Is that a matter of concern?
It is an issue for the workers and they have been vocal about it. We are well-versed with it and we have to worry about their future. This is the same Congress that ended the OPS and started the NPS in Himachal Pradesh. Virbhadra Singh ji was the CM in 2003. Himachal was the first state to end the OPS and implemented the NPS. Why? Why were they in such a hurry? Atal ji gave them an option and a lot of states did not accept it. They did not sign the MoU for a year. Himachal was the first to do so. And after that, if they thought that they did something wrong, they came back to power in 2012. Virbhadra Singh ji became the CM again. Why didn’t they correct their mistake?
What about the concerns of apple-growers over inadequate returns?
This issue is purely political. Apple-growers are fine and we are getting their support. I am from that category. All I have to say that don’t fall into the Congress’s trap. The only problem they were facing was that the goods and services tax (GST) on the packaging material went up to 6% and it was a decision made by the GST Council. Every state CM and finance ministers attend it. We proposed that if you think that the packaging material is too expensive, we will bear the cost. We developed this mechanism and I don’t think there are any other issues. The rest of the issues are about soil and fertilisers. Those issues are small and we have found ways to deal with them.
You are confident that this is localised…
Localised or particularly the Congress is looking to make the issue political. This is not a subject and it won’t have an impact.
My last question is about your phrase ‘rivaz badlega’. Himachal has the tradition of changing the government. What will happen this time on December 8?
On ‘rivaz badlega’, the day PM completed eight years, he had come to Shimla and guided the Pradesh. I said this phrase and the media took it as a slogan and punchline for the election. I had said some things in Himachal Pradesh are like old traditions. When we came to power we realised that earlier governments would first cancel the yojanas of previous governments and order change in netas and officials. We said this rivaz is not good for Himachal, we need to change it. If something is wrong, we will investigate it, but to register cases in the first cabinet out of a feeling of political revenge is not good. So, we started changing the rivaz from there…
मण्डी को बहुत बड़ा सम्मान मिला है और इस सम्मान को लंबे समय तक बरकरार रखना आप सभी की जिम्मेदारी है।इसलिए बड़ी जीत के साथ यहां से भाजपा प्रत्याशी को विधानसभा भेजें।#रिवाजबदलेगा#हिमाचल_में_फिर_भाजपा pic.twitter.com/G8KtWQK025
— Jairam Thakur (@jairamthakurbjp) November 8, 2022
In many parts, the government would change every five years. In Uttarakhand the government used to change and in UP too…so the rivaz has changed. In Himachal, too, the rivaz will change this time. PM Modi, while addressing Himachal, said it needs a permanent government, a strong government which can go together with the central government and him. Himachal needs a double engine government.
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