Five-time Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA, Jai Ram Thakur, 54, became Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh on 27 December, 2017, with luck favouring him over the BJP’s then chief ministerial candidate, former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, who lost his own election. The expectations of people were high from the young leader.
Two years on, Jai Ram Thakur is working hard to establish himself as a ‘leader with a difference’.
His simplicity, accessibility, and positive outlook at the top post have, however, won him appreciation. He has seemingly turned out to be too simple and soft to assert authority in administrative role so far. And this has impacted the overall functioning of officers. In an interview to ARCHANA PHULL, Thakur spoke about the two years of BJP rule in the state.
Q: How do you see first two years of your government?
A: In the first year, I tried to bring newness in the system. Our government did not toe the established line of ‘political vendetta’ with change of power in state, which was the norm earlier. We also took some new initiatives for the people and the state. The second year was a different experience. We faced a test of sorts in the Lok Sabha polls. You may do good work, but people don’t spare you even for a single mistake. The results silenced the critics, who took us lightly. There was talk that we won the Lok Sabha poll with high margins due to ‘Modi factor’. But we won the two bypolls (Pachhad and Dharamshala) later. The party emerged victorious in Pachhad with a candidate whom I first met during her nomination. We learnt a lot in the two bypolls.
Q: Do you think your easy accessibility to people is becoming a problem?
A: I feel comfortable like this. Some things are associated with your personality. The law and order situation in HP is not a problem. So why behave like those in other states? They have a different lifestyle. I want to remain as I am. I do not leave a single person unattended. Any person who hands over his application to me, he is relieved that he has extended his request to the CM.
Q: Isn’t bureaucracy dominating the scene in Himachal?
A: No, it’s not like that. My functioning is different. I have tried to change the system in the bureaucracy also. I may not be that vocal routinely, but I do tell the officers what they have not done in my own way. In between there was an era in Himachal where the bureaucracy was unbridled. But it has to be restrained. If necessary, we have to take action also.
Q: Are you satisfied with the performance of your government?
A: To an extent, yes. But we have to keep working and ensure that schemes are implemented and services are delivered on time. It disturbs me when we are not able to stick to a timeframe. The officials hold meetings one after another, without fulfilling the targets fixed in the first meeting. The government is right, but it should be visible also.
Q: How about implementation of central schemes in Himachal?
A: We have ensured all central schemes which give direct benefit to people are implemented in letter and spirit. We have gone a step beyond in two flagship schemes of Centre ~ Ayushman Bharat for health cover and Ujjwala Yojana for LPG connections ~ by supplementing them with state schemes Him Care and Grihini Suvidha Yojana to cover those left out. HP will be the first state on 27 December where all households will have LPG connections.
Q: The Congress is criticising the government for lavish spending on the global investors meet.
A: Congress-ruled states are also holding investor meets. Punjab government had contacted us for information. Our government has not even spent one fourth of the amount which some other states have spent on such meets. The total expenditure here may come to around Rs 20 crore. The Centre has supported us in this venture and PM Modi addressed the investors here as a ‘host’, not ‘guest’. What else does the state want for development? We launched Himachal internationally as an investment destination. Leader of opposition Mukesh Agnihotri is shouting about the meet but as industries minister earlier he took out road shows with zero result. Our government signed MoUs worth Rs 96000 crore, with a ground breaking ceremony of Rs 10,000 crore investment in one-and-a -half months.
Q: Is factionalism troubling BJP in HP? Is a parallel leadership coming up in BJP in Himachal?
A: Such talk goes on. Situations keep changing. Nobody should mind it. At present, I have been given the responsibility of state. Jagat Prakash Nadda is BJP’s national working president, which is a big assignment. Anurag Thakur is at the Centre. Everyone is a settled in the role. There is nothing like parallel leadership in HP. The top BJP leadership is monitoring everything. There is no confusion. Former CMs Prem Kumar Dhumal and Shanta Kumar are senior leaders.
Q: What is your next agenda in the state?
A: It’s time to translate our initiatives on the ground now. The government will focus on realising the investments promised in the global investors meet. After 27 December, our next challenge is Mission Repeat in 2022 in Himachal Pradesh.