Teams of The New Indian are traversing the length and breadth and Himachal Pradesh as the hill state goes to elections on November 12 to decide whether Congress could snatch the power or BJP would break the jinx and continue to rule. In the capital Shimla, Assistant Editor Urvashi Khona caught up with Anurag Thakur, the powerful Union minister and son of two-time chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal for a quick interview. Here are the edited excerpts:
Urvashi Khona: In the last few days, you met kids and women by stopping midway during your election campaign. You also met Sikhs and wore a saffron turban. What have these days been like for you?
Anurag Thakur: I have been to most of the districts in the state and we have been getting kind of overwhelming responses, which shows how much people love PM Modi and the BJP. Himachal Pradesh has moved forward on the path of development under the leadership of Jairam Thakur Ji in the last five years and I am sure that people will vote for BJP. Because they have seen how projects get stuck when Congress rules the state. We put a lot of effort to complete such projects. People are aware of the advantage of the double-engine government (a reference to BJP governments at the Centre as well as in the state). I am sure that people will vote for the BJP because PM Modi, a very strong leader, treats Himachal Pradesh as his second home and that is the biggest advantage for us.
Urvashi Khona: What did your father Prem Kumar Dhumal Ji teach you as a chief minister and a veteran leader?
Anurag Thakur: Dhumal Ji is a very popular leader. He shares a very strong connection with the common man. He would go to any part of the state, to any Assembly constituency and would take the names of some 30-40 people. That is the kind of leader he is. People love him for that. Despite staying away from the legislature for five years, he can effortlessly recall the names of people. He is known as ‘Sadkowala Mukhyamantri’ – the chief minister who built roads; his initiatives have resulted in Himachal being self-reliant in the field of electricity. He also gets credit for industrialisation in Himachal Pradesh. I feel people love him for what he delivered during the 10 years of his government.
Urvashi Khona. What do you remember of his days as CM that cemented BJP’s position in the state?
Anurag Thakur: Of course. Before his government, the BJP came to power in Himachal a couple of times but unfortunately couldn’t complete 5-year tenure. Himachal saw a sea of changes when he led a coalition government. Due to his efforts, the state made progress, became self-reliant in power, and saw industrialisation. We got the Central government to announce special category state that helped Himachal spend only 10 per cent and 90 per cent would come from the Centre. People still remember these things. He is easily accessible to all and anyone can call him anytime. If you want, you can ring him and find him available.
Urvashi Khona: You played similar roles in Uttar Pradesh and J&K elections. How do you compare your campaign in these states with that in Himachal?
Anurag Thakur: Different parts of Jammu and Kashmir are different but one thing is common – that people want to be part of democracy and they want to see development. It is a result of their determination that had voted in large numbers. Uttar Pradesh was a big challenge because no chief minister or political party in the past 34 years made a comeback but we could pull it through because of the popularity PM Narendra Modi and CM Yogi Adityanath enjoy.
Urvashi Khona: How much confident you are about breaking the tradition of Himachal not repeating governments, and what is the number you are looking at?
Anurag Thakur: I am sure that we are going to win elections in Himachal again. People want to see development; people want to see Himachal going up, more projects and more employment. They know that BJP fulfils its promises. It does not make fake promises like the Congress party, which promised to give one job to each household but it never happened. In 2012, they promised an unemployment allowance which didn’t happen. Now they are making more poll promises. Such appeasement politics would not work, they have no credibility. On the other hand, people have seen PM Modi’s work, and they have seen the Jairam Thakur government’s work and that is why, I am sure, they are going to vote for the BJP.
Urvashi Khona: And the expected seat tally?
Anurag Thakur: I do not get into numbers but I am sure we are going to get more seats than we won in the last elections.