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July 01, 2007
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July 01, 2007

Page: 40/42

Home > 2007 Issues > July 01, 2007

Congress on the retreat in HP: Dhumal

PROF. Prem Kumar Dhumal is a former BJP Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh. He vanquished Congress nominee, Forest Minister Ram Lal Thakur, by a massive margin of more than 82,000 votes in the just-concluded by-election to Hamirpur Lok Sabha in the first week of June. With state assembly elections due in February next, it was a do-or-die battle of ballot for the Congress. CM Virbhadra Singh throughout campaigned tirelessly as did the whole Congress Council of Ministers, MPs, MLAs and other Congress leaders. Amba Charan Vashishth interviewed Prof. Dhumal a few days after his victory. Excerpts:

How do you see your win in the Hamirpur by-election?

I take it not as a personal victory but that of BJP as a whole, of the Party leaders and workers from every corner of the state who unitedly worked day and night to ensure my victory. I was just the person who represented the party as a candidate.

Initially, you were reluctant and stated that you?ll not contest.

That?s true. Personally, I did not feel it right to hop around Parliament and Assembly every now and then. Nine years back I was asked by the Party to shift to State politics. I complied. I worked in the State. For five years I had been the Chief Minister, the only non-Congress Chief Minister to complete his full term of five years. For the last four-and-a-half years, as leader of BJP Legislature Party I have been tirelessly mobilizing the party and the masses against the present Congress government. The results are before everybody to see. Therefore, I thought I should continue my work in the state and somebody else should get a chance.

Who else could have been?

There were many. It could be Shri Shanta Kumar too. Three of the Assembly segments of this parliamentary constituency fall in his Kangra district. I had promised to work day and night for him or any other candidate to ensure Party victory by a respectable margin.

Why did Shri Shanta Kumar not contest?

I don?t know. He may have his own reasons.

You are also being accused of promoting family in politics.

That?s wrong. I did not plead for any member in my family. The name of my elder son, Anurag, did crop up when both Shri Shanta Kumar and I were reluctant to contest. Some people then thought that a new face would prove to be more formidable against the Congress candidate because there would be nothing against him in public. As chief of HP Cricket Association he has done an excellent job in the whole state and therefore, people thought he could be a good choice.

Of all the many prospective candidates why did the Party decide to field you?

The party can better explain this point. But I think, they thought I could give a decisive fight to the ruling Congress. Elections to the Himachal assembly are just six months away and, therefore, the Party, perhaps, did not wish to take chances.

What was your reaction when you were nominated by the Party?

My reaction was just that of instant compliance to Party directive with a bow as a disciplined soldier. When the party reposed so much confidence in me, I took it as an honour and a challenge to come up to its expectations and ensure Party victory.

As a candidate what tilted the scales in your favour when last time under the same Congress government, BJP was able to retain the seat with just a margin of 1,628 votes?

Since the present Virbhadra government came to power, it had failed to honour a single commitment made to the people. The only thing it had done was badli (transfer of officers who do not toe its line) and badla (revenge against its opponents). It indulged in an uncontrolled corruption. This is the most corrupt government the state ever had. While outwardly posing as a crusader against corruption, it was in fact indulging in the worst form of corruption itself.

Now what next in the state?

BJP?s return to power is more than certain.

What are your immediate plans?

People from all over the state are daily thronging my house in large numbers to congratulate me for the Party?s success. I have asked the Party workers and sympathizers not to come to me. They have done their duty. It is now my turn to thank them. Therefore, I shall immediately be touring every corner of the state to thank all the Party workers, leaders and sympathizers who had tirelessly worked for the success of the Party.

As an MP what are the issues you plan to raise in Parliament?

For the past over 18 months, BJP had no voice from Himachal Pradesh in Lok Sabha. I shall fill this vacuum. I shall be forcefully raising the issue of discrimination against Himachal indulged in by both the Congress government in the state and the UPA government at the Centre in almost every sphere. Tourism potential is being neglected. In the matter of Railway lines, Himachal has been ignored the most. Extension of broad gauge line from Kalka to Parwanoo has been shelved. Construction of Nangal-Talwara railway line is moving at a snail?s pace. Infrastructure development is at standstill. I will also raise the issues relating to defence, problems of defence personnel and various projects under centrally-sponsored schemes. I will fight for restoration of the duration of the special industrial package announced by Shri Vajpayee to operate till 2013 which the UPA has reduced to 2010 There are many more issues to be raised.

Some CD was also in the news during elections.

Yes. It was an audio CD released by senior Congress MLA and former Minister, Maj. Vijai Singh Mankotia, in which Chief Minister, Shri Virbhadra Singh and his MP wife, Smt. Pratibha Singh are alleged to have indulged in corrupt deals and money changed hands in exchange for favours to industries. Smt. Pratibha has admitted that the CD is 18 years old. Shri Virbhadra Singh has not yet denied that any conversation of the type in audio CD ever took place. This amounts to an indirect confession. Since Shri Virbhadra Singh is an MLA and Smt. Pratibha Singh is an MP in Lok Sabha, in all fairness the same treatment should be given to them as was given to the MPs in cash-for-questions and MPLAD scams. Parliament cannot afford to apply two sets of standards.

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