Former Bharatiya Janata Party chief minister and ex-Union Minister from Himachal Pradesh, Shanta Kumar, is known for his plain speaking in the party and public. The octogenarian leader, Lok Sabha MP from Kangra, has often suffered because of his forthright approach.
His remarks on corruption against then BJP chief Bangaru Laxman and the Gujarat riots were not taken well by the party. Ignored like other elders in the party at the national level, this senior most leader from Himachal (who was also the first non Congress CM of HP in 1977) refers to his role in BJP as a ‘guest artist’ as he prepares to retire from active politics ahead of the 2019 Parliament polls.
In an interview to ARCHANA PHULL in his home town, Palampur, Shanta Kumar spoke of his political concerns ahead of the Himachal Assembly polls.
What are the prospects of BJP in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls?
The BJP is ahead of other parties in the entire country. It is the same situation in HP. It is for the first time that any chief minister (Virbhadra Singh) in Himachal has faced serious allegations of corruption. The governance and administration in the hill state has gone haywire and is at the lowest ebb under the present Congress rule.
The law and order situation is so bad. The Kotkhai case (gangrape and murder of a 16 year old schoolgirl) has brought shame to HP. More so, during the probe into the case, the CBI arrested eight police officials for alleged custodial death of an accused. This has never happened in the state earlier. I am sure people of HP will elect a BJP government this time.
BJP has made corruption a major issue against Virbhadra Singh. But it has taken former Union minister, Sukh Ram, who is convicted of corruption.
It is the party’s decision. I am in fact worried about politics in the entire country. Values, morality and truth are taking the backseat. It is the consequence of such politics that even after 70 years of independence, India is going down on the economic front. The result of politics of vote banks is that 19 crore Indians are still facing hunger. If politics continues to be like this in India, it would worsen the scenario further. I urge my party that there should be no compromise with morality and principles.
The present BJP high command has ignored old and senior leaders in the party.
I don’t feel ignored and am happy. The values of society are generally changing. We need more oldage homes. But the trend is not good. A family means that while the new blood comes in, the elderly too should be respected. It’s true of every field.
The BJP has not declared the CM face in Himachal in these polls.
The decision to declare a CM face before or after the polls is a part of electoral strategy. The BJP high command takes the final call on this.
Former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal took over the reins from you in Himachal in 1998. Is this the time for another transition in leadership in HP?
No comments. It is for the party high command to decide.
The Centre is facing criticism for some of its policies. Will the Modi factor still work for the BJP in HP?
The anti-incumbency feeling against the state government always plays a role in HP Assembly polls. The Modi factor is an attraction in elections here as people have a strong message that central projects are not being implemented by Congress government in Himachal for different reasons.
You had to struggle to secure Assembly tickets for your loyalists this time.
I had put forth my viewpoint at the party platform. The tickets were generally decided by consensus. At a few places, there was some problem. The final decision, however, always rests with the party high command.
What role will you play in these Assembly polls?
I will work for the party wherever they need me.
Are you satisfied with your political journey?
Yes, I am fully satisfied with my political journey. I have always followed my ideals and principles in politics. I had to pay the price for this approach many times. I even quit a post once. But I am proud of that.
What are your future plans in politics?
I entered politics when I was just 19 years old. I am 84 years old and feel that I need to withdraw from politics gradually. I won’t be into active politics and won’t contest any election now. I will be more active in the work of Vivekananda Medical Research Trust (VMRT) in Palampur, where we are now building an old-age home. Q
What is the litterateur Shanta Kumar writing these days?
I am writing my memoirs. I have just completed the synopsis and will take it up further as soon as I get some free time.