Fielding 21 fresh faces and leaving out a dozen sitting MLAs, the BJP allotted tickets for the 68-member Assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh that will go to polls on 12 November. The strategy of the party has been to override the anti-incumbency wave as it did in Uttrakhand and UP recently.
Denial of the ticket to former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and his loyalist has ruffled many feathers. Dissidence has been brewing in the party over the ticket distribution. However, the veteran leader will be visible in the campaigning though he has opted out of the race.
In an interview with Bhawani Negi from The Stateman, state BJP chief Suresh Kashyap spoke about Dhumal and dissidence. Here are the excerpts:
Bhawani Negi: What is the strategy behind denying tickets to sitting MLAs and putting the bet on fresh faces?
Suresh Kashyap: Decisions on the allotment of tickets are based entirely on the party’s survey. Feedback has also been taken from the party workers.
For the first time, a political party has taken opinions from the people while allotting tickets to suitable candidates. It is an effort to arrive at a consensus right at the start of electioneering.
BN: Why have former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal and senior leader Gulab Singh Thakur been sidelined this time around? And, why Dhumal loyalists have been denied tickets?
SK: Dhumal himself opted out of the race by writing to PM Narendra Modi. The others who have been denied tickets continue to be loyal to the party.
BN. What will be Dhumal’s role in the upcoming polls? Will you rope in former CM Shanta Kumar in campaigning?
SK:. Both former CM Dhumal and Shanta Kumar will play a significant role in the elections as they are the founding pillars of the party. The elections will be held with their blessings.
BN: Rebellion and dissidence sparked after tickets were finalized. Is it a challenge for the party?
SK: It happens, the manner in which the party is growing there is bound to be an increase in aspirants with everyone wanting to be accommodated which is impossible. This is a momentary phase. However, when the question of association with the party arises, things will fall into place.
Those upset are our own people, when the party will form the government, there will be a scope to adjust them.
BN: In contrast, hasn’t the party taken a U-turn on the issue of ‘parivarvad’ (dynasty politics) by giving five tickets to sons of politicians?
SK: The party has given tickets on the candidates’ merit, not family ties. You will not find two of the same family, like both father and son or two from the same family in the electoral fray.
BN: Who is the chief minister face of the party, and why?
SK: The elections are being contested under the leadership of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur. The Central leadership already instilled faith in him to steer the party to victory.
BN: Why should people vote for your party?
SK: Our double-engine governments have worked to ensure progress and development reach all the corners of the state. The state has witnessed exponential growth during the last five years.
Welfare schemes launched aim to benefit each and every section of society.
BN: Is the anti-incumbency factor a challenge for ‘Mission Repeat’ for the party? How do you look forward to tackling it?
SK: There is no anti-incumbency. However, in the pockets where there was any, we have made an effort to overcome it by resolving the issues of the people as best as possible.
BN: Old Pension Scheme is one of the major issues of the employees that other political parties are trying to cash in on. However, your party remained silent and gave no assurances about it.
SK: It was Congress that abolished the Old Pension Scheme. Our government has resolved many issues of the employees in the past and we will also look for solutions to resolve this issue in the future as well.
BN: Is AAP a threat to BJP?
SK: No, not at all. AAP has neither been able to set up a strong cadre base nor has it gained any foothold in the state so far. Hence, it stands no chance to make an impact.