Six-time Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Virbhadra Singh, has yet again proved that he is a persistent fighter. Since he took oath on 25 December 2012, he has been under attack from opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over corruption cases, and has faced much dissidence within the Congress too. Nothing could, however, bog him down and he performed relentlessly, with his connect with the grassroots and the capacity to work hard, his biggest strengths. The octogenarian Chief Minister has displayed unmatched leadership qualities over his 55 year long political journey and his will to dominate political scene in Himachal is unbeatable. Virbhadra Singh talked about himself and the party affairs in an exclusive interview with ARCHANA PHULL and BHAWANI NEGI in Shimla, as he readies to battle it out in the next Assembly polls, defying age and odds. Excerpts:
How has been your political journey? Are you satisfied?
It has been very nice and full of challenges. One is never satisfied. One sets up a goal for oneself. The cycle goes on.
Any plans on ‘sanyas’ (retirement) from politics?
That’s very much in me. One fine morning I may suddenly announce this. At the same time, I am not oblivious to the responsibility. People of Himachal trust me so much.
Rivals in the party always pose a challenge to you. Did you face problems in this tenure?
I think, if I have rivals, it makes my life more saucy. It has always kept me alert and on toes. But I am satisfied with my performance because of tremendous love and support of people from all ranks and regions.
Do you foresee vacuum of leadership in state after you finally retire?
I do worry. There have been many aspirants for the top post within the party and outside. I wonder if there are leaders capable of running the state.
You are blamed for not letting the second-line leadership come up in Congress?
I have not stopped anyone from emerging a leader. I came with my own efforts. Nobody built me up. Any aspirant, who wants to come to fore, will have to choose own path and make himself capable of leadership. I have been a nationalist and have believed in removing divisions in state. There are others who wish to rise by dividing people with the talk of new and old or upper or lower Himachal, which is wrong.
What is wrong with the present-day politicians?
There is no dearth of talent in younger generation. However, many entering politics these days are self-centric. They join politics to keep power and rise, even if it is about cutting the throat of closest of friends. Service is not the motivation.
You are known as a fighter. Can we expect the same spirit this election?
I am a fighter for a cause. I feel strongly about issues and I don’t mince words. I am going to fight this election very fiercely. Will see whether I am able to change the ‘so called’ Modi wave. As a field worker, I find this wave is in the media only. All policies and programmes of Modi government are showing failure after three years. BJP has proved to be an intolerant party.
Is your son, Vikramaditya Singh contesting the Assembly poll?
He should contest. He is an ‘elected’ president of Youth Congress and has been working for the party.
HP has seen change of power every five years. What do you have to say on this?
We have a fair chance, provided the tickets are distributed properly. Himachal has been ruled mostly by Congress in the past. It is not about people wanting change — I think one or the other reason ailed the poll strategy and we failed to make a comeback.
In which four sectors you think the state has done well?
Hundred per cent electrification, road connectivity, healthcare and education. Every nook and corner of the tough hill state now has electricity, road connectivity, healthcare and educational institutions. We have done revolutionary work in the education sector and have opened colleges in the remotest of areas, which has mainly helped the girls get higher education.
Congress is at the lowest ebb in the country at the moment; is something wrong with the leadership?
There are ups and downs. But the party is on the right path and the Congress will emerge strong again. There is no dearth of leadership. Congress used to be a mass party and we had stalwarts like Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru and Vallabh Bhai Patel. I am proud of Congress’ history and service to the nation it has rendered.
You have some reservations about organisational polls in Congress?
I believe the Congress party must revert to democracy and we should shun the nominations to party posts. I have remained State Congress President five times, and four times I was elected. Only once they nominated me as party president to lead the polls in HP. I think, elections should be held at all levels in Congress, from grassroots to the top.