Updated: December 31, 2021 7:51:07 pm
Running against time to perform with his government’s tenure in the last lap, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur was in New Delhi Thursday to attend chief ministers’ pre-budget meeting with Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. As debt mounts on the state with him in the saddle as CM, so does pressure on Thakur to perform. Excerpts from the CM’s interview with The Indian Express.
You just completed four years in office? How do you rate your performance?
My rating is not important. It is the people’s rating which will matter. We have taken a lot of new initiatives in this period. Recently, there was a ground-breaking ceremony of investment projects worth over Rs 28,000 crore attended by (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi ji. Prior to that, ground-breaking ceremony of projects worth over Rs 13,000 crore was held in the presence of (Home Minister) Amit Shah ji. So, a total investment of more than Rs 40,000 crore has come in the private sector.
Then we tried to synchronise state policies with those of the Centre.
Take Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana for example. It covered certain portion of the state population. Those left out we brought under Himcare with an insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh. More than two lakh people have benefited from this scheme.
The same is the case with Ujjwala Yojana. For those who could not avail themselves of this scheme, we launched Grihini Suvidha Yojana.
To reach out to people, we also launched Janmanch. On the first Sunday of every month, this programme is held in all districts of the state, wherein the common man voices his grievances on the mic and attempts are made to resolve them on the spot. Ministers remain in attendance.
Under Sahara Yojana, we provide a bed-ridden patient Rs 3,000 a month.
For BPL families, we give Rs 30,000 on the daughter’s wedding.
In the fight against Covid, we achieved the distinction of being the first state in the country to administer both first and second dose of vaccine to the eligible population. We also recorded zero wastage.
In ease of doing business, Himachal jumped from rank 16 to seven. Be it health or education, we recorded improvement in every sector.
Recently CMs of BJP-ruled states, including Gujarat and Uttarakhand, were changed to buck anti-incumbency. There was talk of leadership change in Himachal as well.
We are in politics, and people love to talk in politics. Logon ko baatein karane ka mauka mil jata hai (People get an opportunity to talk).
There was again talk of change after the bypoll results.
As I said, people love to talk.
Top party leadership seems to be having special affection for you.
Modi ji ka Himachal se khaas rishta hai (Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a special relationship with Himachal). He has lived in the state and knows it very well. He came to attend my oath-taking ceremony. He inaugurated the Atal tunnel. Now he came to attend the fourth-anniversary celebration of my government. He is always there for us.
What went wrong in the bypolls?
The most important factor was the sympathy for the late Virbhadra Singh, who passed away this year. His wife won but the margin was not big. Anyway, the bypoll defeat was a timely alert for us.
What are your plans for last year in office?
We are planning to implement many developmental projects. Covid has hit the economy hard. Let’s see how we go ahead with all these projects. We are on a repeat (the government) mission. We’re going to focus on tourism, connectivity and four-laning projects.
The Congress alleges your own party members don’t consider you their leader. Recently, former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal wrote a letter for regularisation of teachers. Instead of addressing it to you, he addressed it to the director (education).
Dhumal ji sahyogi hain. Unse sahyog milta rehata hai. Writing a letter doesn’t mean there is a leadership crisis. There is a visible leadership. Congress ki baat karein to unke to 12 zilon mein 12 mukhyamantri pad ke ummeedwar ghoom rahen hain. Chunaav aate-aate aur khade ho jayenge (If we talk about the Congress, they have 12 chief ministerial candidates in 12 districts. As elections approach, there will be more).
But had Dhumal campaigned in the bypolls, would the results have been different?
No comment. But his health was an issue and someone had passed away in his family. I have been getting full cooperation from all senior leaders, be it Shanta Kumar ji, Dhumal ji, (BJP national president J P) Nadda ji or (Union Minister) Anurag Thakur ji.
When news of recent revision of pay scales came, it was said employees and pensioners were to be benefited. But in the government notification, pensioners have been omitted. They are a worried lot.
Himachal is a small state but the number of government employees is very big. We follow Punjab Pay Commission. We follow their pattern. As for pensioners, they too are going to benefit. But their arrears are an issue. We’ll do something (about that).
After the Centre issued Covid guidelines following the emergence of Omicron variant, the BJP-ruled states, including Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, imposed night curfew. You are yet to act.
Covid cases are under control as of now. We’ll review the situation in the first week of January.
Congress accuses you of being the chief minister who has taken the maximum loan.
Everyone knows the pandemic hit the economy very hard. There was no other option but to take loan. Moreover, it is the Congress which is responsible for this state of affairs. They have been the longest serving party in power in the state. They left behind a debt of Rs 50,000 crore.
The bypoll results were declared two days before the festival of lights on November 4 this year. You were preparing to celebrate Diwali before Diwali. But that was not to be. How is next year’s Diwali going to be? The state will be going to polls around that time.
Bright! Let’s hope for the best. Umeed achchhe ki hai!