Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government run by Jai Ram Thakur completes one year in office on 27 December. Thakur, 53, who became Chief Minister for the first time in sudden twist of fortune after 2017 Assembly poll results, faced a major challenge to prove his mettle, especially as it was construed as a generational change in BJP and Himachal politics.
Humble in approach, Thakur has shown that he believes in acceptance not denial, be it any situation, and this has helped him solve the issues positively and practically. One year on, the Himachal CM talked to ARCHANA PHULL from The Statesman about his performance. The excerpts are:
What were the challenges in the first year of rule?
There were all kinds of challenges. But the kind of responsibility I was given, the biggest need was that I should understand the state and the state should understand me. That is why I tried to build connect with people and state and have visited 63 Assembly segments out of 68 in one year.
I could feel the pulse of people and people have understood me. The government had to face testing times as well- whether it was Shimla water crisis in summers, the Kasauli shoot out, or the sudden snowfall and rainfall in state in September, throwing life out of gear. But we passed every test successfully and it was great learning.
When you took over, it was seen as beginning of ‘new era’ in HP? What is your feeling?
It is new era, with change of generation also. We are working with a difference, whether it is about public dealing or actions. We also broke the cycle of vendetta politics. In the first cabinet, when the governments in the past would review previous decisions or order inquiries against political opponents, we took humane approach. I focused on work and have been doing it 24X7 for one year now, without taking any off.
With your rise, has the Shanta-Dhumal rift in BJP come to an end?
There is no rift now. Both the senior leaders are working in unison and are supporting me. I have no problems from the party side.
Have you been able to handle the bureaucracy?
For me it is more important to have working environment and working relations. In one year, I have understood the functioning of all the bureaucrats and I know which officer is making excuses and who is trying to be clever and who’s doing what and why? There is no scope for any excuses now and gradually a system is developing, where work is supreme.
Have you been able to change the system, which you promised?
We have our own working style. People have lot of expectations from us and they want us to be different. We are working with fresh approach to governance. The system is gradually changing.
Half of your cabinet has first time ministers? How have they performed?
You need some time to understand the system. There is always a scope for improvement. The whole government is progressing very fast on the agenda of development. It is time to perform.
Have you been able to translate your plans into action in one year?
It takes time to show the result on ground. Whatever initiatives we have taken and whatever new schemes we have launched, they will take off on ground now. The Grihini Suvidha Yojana is fulfilling the target of 40,000, our Jan Manch programme is a hit having solved 20,000 complaints in one year. Rather, the Congress is feeling the pinch of the success of Jan Manch approach, so much that people within Congress have started questioning the leadership.
Himachal is cash strapped? How are your mobilizing resources for development?
We are on it. Apart from the routine central schemes, we have got funding worth Rs 9000 crore from the centre for under new projects in Himachal. This is our major achievement in one year. This was missing in previous Congress government, which did not take new initiatives. We are also trying for major investment.
Earlier, only industries department was involved in proposals for investment. We have engaged every department to make its own proposals for investment. We are making honest and serious efforts for this investment, which will impact the economy.
We are continuously pressing the centre for improving air connectivity to Himachal. The Udan-I launched by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has revived the Shimla airport, which was out of use for long. We are promised Udan-II by January for air connectivity from within Himachal.
What about opposition’s role in one year in Himachal?
The Congress opposed the government without any issues. One year has passed and they raised the common things like transfers, use of helicopter etc, which are there in any government. Nothing new in it.
Sans ‘Modi wave’, can BJP retain all four seats in HP in 2019 Lok Sabha polls?
In MP, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh, there was anti-incumbency of 15 years. There was nothing against PM, Narendra Modi and it was not a big defeat, going by percentage of votes. The issues in 2019 Lok Sabha poll would be different. Modi is a charismatic leader. People would compare Modi’s leadership qualities with others in 2019, and the state government would also play a role.