Shri Shanta Kumar is a veteran of Himachal politics. Jumping into politics with high ideals at the raw age of 19, he has seen many ups and downs in his political career. He has been twice the Chief Minister of Himachal, BJP State President, Union Cabinet Minister and now National Vice-President of BJP. He turned 75 on September 12. Amba Charan Vashishth interviewed him. Excerpts:
You are completing 75 years of an eventful life, what feelings come to your mind today?
As I come to this stage of my long eventful journey of life, I feel completely contented. By the grace of God in my life I have lived up to my ideals. After many ups and downs I have reached this stage. God has provided me ample opportunity to work. Coming from an ordinary family of a small village I have been able to serve the people occupying prestigious offices in the country. I am grateful to the family, society and God for this.
You jumped into politics at the very early age. What inspired you to join the political mainstream at that very raw age?
While in school I came in contact with the RSS. It ignited in me the urge to serve the country. After matriculation I became a RSS Pracharak. Later, I joined Bharatiya Jana Sangh. From the very beginning I never thought of myself; I only had the urge to do something for the society and the country. The zeal was so strong that at the age of 19 I jumped into the Kashmir movement and smilingly spent 10 months in jail. Since then I never looked back. I did never surrender for anything.
What were the ideals with which you joined politics and how far do you think you have been able to achieve those?
Service and politics of moral values has been my motto. During my political life I had to suffer because of this. I have given greater importance to my ideals than to power and office. For this too I have suffered.
As Himachal CM you enforced “No Work, No Pay” policy. Did it not cost the party heavily in elections?
Moral values have always weighed heavier with me than the fruits of power. Because of that I have, at times, failed in the politics of vote. I have no regrets. I feel proud. A philosopher has said: “Some defeats in life are more honourable than some victories”.
You did not allow your political career to hamper your literary pursuits. What is your priority? Are you a politician first or a writer?
Even when I was head to toe submerged in politics, I continued to keep the writer in me alive. Because of this, the politician in me also remained alive and alert because both were the means and not the ends.
How satisfied are you with your literary pursuits?
Quite satisfied. When I look back I myself feel surprised how could I churn out 15 books even when so much engrossed in politics. For this I give credit to the inspiration from God and cooperation from my wife.
You have led a very illustrious political life. Starting from an ordinary karyakarta you rose to be the two time Chief Minister of Himachal, State BJP President, Union Cabinet Minister and now National Vice-President of BJP. What do you feel you have still to do in politics?
I never begged for office. Nor did I ever work to get an office. Whatever assignment was given to me by my party, I discharged it to the best of my ability as a disciplined soldier. I never begged even before God. If ever I have gone to Him I have gone only to thank Him. Both my party and God have given me a lot and I am grateful to both. What further I have to do is also to be determined by them. I have decided not to contest any election in future. I have now no lust for office, but I do have the urge to serve the country.
You are a Rajya Sabha MP for the last over 18 months. What are your main achievements?
I have taken part in many important discussions of national importance. I have raised the issues concerning the State also.
What do you think you have still to achieve which you could not during all these years?
I am satisfied that in my life I have been able to do a lot for the people. Provision of potable drinking water, antyodaya, getting royalty for power projects in Himachal and at the Centre introduction of swajaldhara, hariyali and antyodaya ann yojna for the poorest of the poor etc. have been my main contribution. I never struck a compromise with corruption.
What about your dream project Vivekanand Hospital?
In the first phase Kaya Kalpa is running successfully. People even from abroad are coming for treatment. A super specialty hospital is coming up in the second phase and will be operational in two years.
Who has had the greatest influence on your life?
Bhagwad Gita and Swami Vivekanand have been my ideals in life.
What is your message to the present generation of people and the party karyakartas?
During freedom struggle our leaders sacrificed their youth for the cause of freedom. Preserving that hard-earned freedom is the duty of the present generation. Treachery and corruption in politics can never be the strength of a country. Without inducting morality and values in politics, we cannot dream of a bright future for the country. Before 1947 the country needed an army of those who could sacrifice anything. Today the country needs those who can work for the nation with commitment, devotion and honesty.