In November 1997, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister, Jagat Prakash Nadda, leader of BJP Legislature Party in Himachal Pradesh then, had joined hands with senior leader Prem Kumar Dhumal in the midst of ‘big BJP fight’ for supremacy at Jwalamukhi in Kangra district. Dhumal became Chief Minister twice after that and is still a popular leader.
Two decades later, the BJP wheel seems to have taken a full turn in Himachal. Nadda, 56, is now seen as a rival of Dhumal, 73, and many in BJP believe that he is also in the race for CM ship this time — a move that Nadda refutes (mincing words) and his loyalists admit subtly. One of the star campaigners of BJP in Himachal polls, Nadda was ‘guarded’ in expression as he spoke to ARCHANA PHULL in Shimla on Himachal scenario ahead of polls in an interview.
What are the chances of BJP in Himachal Assembly polls?
The situation is crystal clear in Himachal. The BJP will wrest power from Congress. The people in the hill state are convinced with two things. First, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi wants to develop HP. Paying special attention, he has not only extended special category status to HP at par with the North Eastern states for central funding and has restored the industrial package, which was given to Himachal in 2003 by the then BJP Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and was later scrapped by the UPA government. The Centre has sanctioned 71 National Highways to the hill state and has relaxed norms for procedural formalities. Himachal will have a different picture when all these highways are constructed. Three medical colleges have been set up in HP, the fourth one (in Hamirpur) is awaiting land transfer. One AIIMS has also been given.
Second, while BJP has been fighting unitedly, the Congress government here was inefficient and divided. The Chief Minister spent five years in conflict with his ministers and fighting with state Congress president in Himachal.
CM, Virbhadra Singh has made development as his poll plank?
Nothing is seen on the ground in terms of development in five years in Himachal. This time the government here was run by officers. There was a total administrative disconnect in this Congress tenure.
What are JP Nadda’s dreams in Himachal?
I started my electoral journey here and know much of the ground. When I was Health minister in the state, we gave Vision 2020. It was replicated in the National Health Policy in 2003-04. We gave the concept of ASHA workers in health and the HP model was adopted at national level. Tourism is another area, which HP needs to tap in totality- linking it with adventure, health, and environment. Quality education, health care are another areas that need attention. Horticulture needs focus.We have innocent but raw manpower here. We should develop their skill.
What about your political dreams in Himachal?
No political dreams. As a party man, I have never thought of it. I have come out of it. I had resigned my MLA ship some years ago for the party work in Delhi. I have been an activist since student days and have maintained the same spirit.
Are you in the race for chief ministership?
There is no race. Moreover, you can’t judge yourself or talk about yourself. It depends on the people.
BJP has not declared CM face in HP this time?
There are times when the party has gone to polls like that as a matter of strategy. In UP, Assam, Haryana and some other states, the BJP did not declare the CM face. The decision rests with the Central Parliamentary Board of BJP.
There is talk that Dhumal is being declared CM face soon?
The Board is empowered to take any decision any moment. It is for Prime Minister and the BJP Chief to take the final call.
Is corruption an issue in Himachal polls?
Yes, very much. People feel disturbed in Himachal because of corruption from top to bottom in government functioning in the state. The officers get unbridled in such a system when there is no monitoring by political leaders.
HP people are unwilling to believe corruption allegations against Virbhadra?
Whatever it be, the people of Himachal are upset over the corruption in government functioning. They are unhappy with the system around, even if they don’t talk of CM. The voters here are aware and know who is doing what.
Where does BJP stand on corruption issue after taking former Union minister, Sukh Ram in party fold?
The BJP has not taken Sukh Ram. His son, Anil Sharma (Congress minister in present tenure) has joined the BJP. Sharma has a solid base.