Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal completed one year in the office on December 30. In a wide-ranging interview to Organiser representative Amba Charan Vashishth Prof. Dhumal spoke at length about his achievements and plans for the future. He expressed satisfaction over what he achieved in the first year. He wishes to take the state on the path of rapid development. Excerpts:
Now that you have completed one year in the office how do you feel?
It is always an exhilarating experience to get the opportunity to serve the people of the state again. I just bow before the people for giving me this honour and opportunity to do my bit of service once again. I am thankful to the people of Himachal Pradesh for reposing faith in me.
How satisfied are you with what you could achieve during the last one year?
On my part I am more than satisfied with what I have been able to achieve and do for the State. We made our election manifesto as the Government'sPolicy Document for action. In the very first year, we have fulfilled almost 80 per cent of the promises made to the people.
Can you recount the major achievements?
Winning the confidence of people of the state and making them realise that this is the aam aadmi'sgovernment is the major achievement.
I consider making the Union Government agree in principle to either broad gauging the Pathankot-Jogindernagar narrow gauge railway line and further extending it to Kullu-Manali-Lahaul-Leh or linking this line to the proposed Bhanupali-Bilaspur railway line are other prominent decisions. Originally, the Government of India had rejected my proposal saying it unviable. But I wrote back stressing that it is a matter of national security and protecting the international borders with Tibet, financial constraint and economic viability should not stand in the way. I am glad that the government finally conceded my point and the survey work was set in motion. This project is going to revolutionise the lines of communication and tourism in the state.
During your last tenure, you came to be recognised as a man who spread the net of roads all over the state and accelerated power generation. What are the priorities in this tenure?
Due to the last term'sperformance people called me Sadakwala and Bijliwala Mukhya Mantri. This time we are concentrating on improving the condition of fruit growers and common man by providing them employment.
What is the greatest challenge before you today?
To raise funds for development, to meet salary and pension requirements and repayment of the loans. To make Himachal Pradesh a power hub of the country and take it to the top in overall development.
What is your strategy for Lok Sabha polls?
Our strategy is simple?to win all the four seats. For this government and party organisation will work in tandem as before.
What will be the main issues in election campaign?
We shall concentrate on two issues?the achievements of the present BJP government during the last one year and failures of the previous Congress government in the State as well as the present UPA government at the Centre.
When the BJP nominated your son Anurag Thakur as a candidate for Hamirpur Lok Sabha bye-election, there were murmurs charging you with promoting dynastic politics. What would you say?
It has become a fashion for some critics to hurl such charges and criticism. The fact is not who Anurag Thakur is, but whether he has any standing among the people and whether he can win. He had his own place among the people, particularly the youth by having worked shoulder-to-shoulder with them. He has made a name by bringing Himachal in the forefront of national cricket scene. By making Anurag win by a record margin and giving him unprecedented lead in all the 17 assembly segments that formed Hamirpur Parliamentary constituency, the electorates have given a lie to all such criticisms. The nomination of Anurag by the State and Central BJP leadership has received the stamp of approval of the people. It is the will of the people and not criticism of a few that matters. It was in recognition of this fact that the Central leadership re-nominated Anurag from Hamirpur in the first instance.
You are credited with having succeeded in bridging the gap between the old and new areas of Himachal Pradesh. How far do you think you have further cemented it?
Actually, it was the Congress, which, since the merger of Punjab hill areas into Himachal in 1966, thrived by creating this gulf. They never wanted this chasm to be narrowed down and removed for their vested electoral interests. BJP made history when it won Jubbal-Kotkhai seat for the first time. We won eight assembly seats out of 17 constituting Shimla Parliamentary seat. One Congress rebel who won as independent has become an associate member of BJP. My government and BJP are leaving no stone unturned to cement the affinity between the two areas.
You are considered to be the Chief Minister most accessible to the general public. Is there any plan in immediate future to make your government and officials further reach out to the masses?
All secretaries to the Government have been directed to tour the state extensively and solve the problems of the people at their doorsteps. Another grouse of the public at large has been the absence of field functionaries from the office. I have issued strict directions that the presence of field officers and functionaries in their respective offices should be strictly ensured. The grievance redressal system has also been activated and energised to such an extent that within 72 hour, every single grievance against the government is monitored by the Chief Minister'sOffice. In fact, there have been instances where allegations of corruption have directly been received by me and prompt action has been taken. The common man is the real master in democracy and it is everyone'sduty, including that of the Chief Minister, the Ministers and the government officials, to solve his problems.
Do you have any special programme for second year of the government?
There are numerous schemes which would benefit the common man.
As a party is voted into power, differences come to the surface within the government and the organisation. What is the position in Himachal Pradesh?
There is no any such problem in Himachal at all. The party and the government are functioning in perfect harmony. We consult each other frequently.
Your last term was marred by recurring incidents of indiscipline and dissidence. But this time the scenario looks different.
Yes, it is different. That is why I get more time to concentrate on development and welfare of the State.