In the 2018 assembly polls, the Congress had won 114 seats, BJP 109 seats and seven seats had gone to others.
Leader of Opposition in Himachal Pradesh, former Congress minister Mukesh Agnihotri is a journo turned politician. Four-time MLA in a row, Agnihotri, 56, was elevated as Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader after 2017 Assembly polls, when Congress high command decided to bring younger leadership to fore.
Leading the CLP, with former six-time CM, Virbhadra Singh a member, with full energy for one year now, Agnihotri launches scathing attack on Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Himachal in an interview with ARCHANA PHULL of The Statesman. The excerpts are:
Q. How are you taking this generational shift in CLP?
A. I was not in the race and I did not do any lobbying for this position. The high command decided this in its own wisdom. I am thankful to Congress President for trusting me. I am trying my best to give desired results. So far, there have been four Vidhan Sabha sessions in one year, and the CLP has kept the BJP government on tenterhooks. It is a state-wide opinion that we have continuously cornered the government in Assembly, and have left the government explaining in one year.
Q. What about BJP government’s performance in HP in one year?
A. The BJP government is a non-starter. There is no achievement. Whatever they promised in the first budget, they haven’t done anything on it. So far, the Chief Minister has seen everything from a helicopter. Nothing new has been done on ground. One year on, the government has not done any planning. It lacks vision.
Q. What according to you are the main issues that the government has failed to address?
A. They used to talk about huge debt on the state, while in opposition. In power, they have taken Rs 3500 crore loan in one year. The state is reeling under the debt of Rs 50,000 crore. Not even once, the present government took up with the Finance Commission members, who came here, to wave off loans. The government spoke lies on 69 National Highways (NHs) with total budget of Rs 65000 crore. Not even a single NH has taken off. No money has come so far. In March 2019, code of conduct for Lok Sabha polls will come into force, which will stall all work. The government has taken U-turn on factor 2 for land acquisition as well. The CM has been flying to Delhi off and on, but the Centre is not giving any precedence to Himachal. The CM says the centre has sanctioned Rs 9000 crore, Union Health Minister, JP Nadda said it is Rs 10,000 crore. Nobody knows what the state has actually got.
Q. What about controversy on government’s decision to grant land on lease to Baba Ramdev?
A. They have unduly benefitted Ram Dev, who is a pure businessman with turnover of Rs 10,000 crore. The cabinet decided to give relaxation to him and gave 93 bighas land for mere Rs 2.40 crore. They are also trying to relax section 118 of Land Tenancy and Reforms Act for big businessmen in the name of industrial development. In Dhumal’s tenure in the past, private Universities grabbed land like this.
Q. CM Jai Ram Thakur says it is a new era?
A. How? What have they done? There is no development. The government has not spelt its short-term or long-term vision. The government is puppet of RSS. They alleged that previous Congress government had kept tired and retired officers in CM office. They were still officers and knew work. This government has kept people from RSS. Against their own stand, they have appointed so many Chairmen and Vice Chairmen. The government is buying costly vehicles. The crime, especially murder and rape cases have gone up alarmingly.
Q. The government is putting up massive show at Dharamshala on 27 December?
A. It is total misuse of government machinery and public money.It is a political rally organised by officers.