INTERVIEW: BJP Following Ideology Of British Rule, Says Bhupesh Baghel

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By: Anand Singh | Shimla 
Updated: 05 November, 2022 7:57 pm IST
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel speaking to The New Indian's Anand Singh in Shimla. (TNI photo by Sumit Kumar)

As part of its coverage of the Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, The New Indian caught up with Chhattisgarh chief minister and senior Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel for an exclusive interview. Baghel, who spoke to Assistant Editor Anand Singh soon after launching the party’s manifesto for the state polls along with other senior leaders, spoke on a range of issues including the Congress’ poll prospects, its electoral promises and the BJP government’s performance in the hill state. He said the party has a record of fulfilling its poll promises. Edited excerpts:

Anand Singh: Congress has released its manifesto promising 1 lakh government jobs to youths and implementing OPS. How will it arrange necessary funds to fulfill these promises?

Bhupesh Baghel: It will be implemented the way we did it in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. As far as government jobs are concerned, more than 63,000 posts are vacant, and many employees will retire in the future. We will also create new posts. This is how we will fulfil the promise of providing one lakh government jobs to the youth of Himachal Pradesh.

Anand Singh: You implemented OPS in Chhattisgarh, but you are yet to receive money from the Central government. How do you look at the legalities involved in this process?

Bhupesh Baghel: They (BJP) don’t want the employees to get the benefits of the old pension scheme (OPS) whereas we want the retired employees to get its benefits. We will do whatever it takes to implement it, including fighting with the Central government. The money belongs to employees, and it is their personal money deposited in the corpus fund. So, we will take from the Centre the same corpus fund and create a corpus fund account in the state and deposit the amount in this new account. We are taking legal advice and hope to emerge victorious in this fight. In Chhattisgarh, the corpus is worth Rs 17000 crore.

Anand Singh: BJP has been mocking Congress by referring to former chief minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife and state Congress chief Pratibha Singh as ‘Raja Rani’. What do you have to say?

Bhupesh Baghel: India is a democratic country, and anyone can become chief minister by following the established democratic processes. Who will or won’t become the chief minister is decided by the people of the state, not the BJP. They (BJP leaders) are followers of those who never wanted the British rule to leave India.

Anand Singh: Who will be Congress CM face in Himachal Pradesh?

Bhupesh Baghel: Congress is contesting this election under a collective leadership. The party leadership will take a decision regarding the chief minister after we get a majority in the Assembly.

Elections in the 68-member Legislative Assembly are scheduled to take place on November 12 and the counting of votes will happen on December 8.

Rivals Congress and BJP are going all-out to win the election. While general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, CM Bhupesh Baghel, Sachin Pilot, Himachal Pradesh in-charge Rajeev Shukla are among Congress’ star campaigners, BJP is trying to woo voters through numerous rallies of prime minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath among others.

In absence of state Congress stalwart Virbhadra Singh, the Congress is baking heavily on anti-incumbency in Himachal Pradesh, a state which has a unique tradition of changing governments every five years.

The New Pension Scheme (NPS) came into force on April 1, 2004, by the then NDA government at the Centre led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, replacing the old scheme. Congress is trying to lure more than 1.51 lakh pensioners in Himachal Pradesh.

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