Shri Satpal Singh Satti is the youngest State BJP president Himachal ever had. He jumped into politics during his student days through Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). A post-graduate with MPhil in political science, he was state secretary and later national secretary of ABVP from 1994 to 97. He was first elected to HP State assembly in 2003 and presently he is running his second consecutive term. On the call of the party he quit his job as Chief Parliamentary Secretary in BJP government to take up the organisational challenge in the election year. Clear and forthright, Shri Satti minces no words in dealing with those who left the party or the internal bickering within the main opposition Congress. “All I know”, he says, “is that BJP’s only rival is the Congress and we have to humble it decisively this time again. Who is the leader of Congress doesn’t matter to us”. Amba Charan Vashishth spoke to him in Shimla to knew about the present political and electoral scenario in the State. Excerpts:
You are perhaps the youngest State BJP president in Himachal. What difference does it make to the party?
I am grateful to the leaders and BJP karyakartas who have reposed faith in me. I have tried my best to infuse in the party a sense of purpose and zeal to win the next election by myself working hard in this direction. I pray to God to give me strength to come up to the expectations of my leaders and karyakartas.
Your greatest achievement is the unity of thought and purpose you have been able to infuse in the party. What else have you been able to do during the last few months you have been the chief?
In fact, there was no dissidence or difference of opinion in the party. It was more a media hype. If there was any, it was just a difference of approach, but the goal of everybody was the same—good of the party. Now everyone is putting his body, heart and soul to ensure that the “Mission Repeat” of the present BJP government under the leadership of Chief Minister Prof Prem Kumar Dhumal is accomplished.
During the last few months I have given an impetus to the programmes and the campaigns that had been pending for some time for some reasons. I have extensively toured almost every part of the State and made the District and Mandal units to rise to the occasion to face the challenges before the party. I am glad to say that the karyakarta is fully geared up for the elections to the State assembly any moment.
There is a myth that in the State it is BJP in power this time and Congress next time one by one. What do you feel?
It is a wrong notion and this time I am sure the people of the State are going to smash this myth. BJP governments in many States, like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh have returned to power again on the strength of their record of excellent performance and good governance. In our neighbouring State of Punjab, BJP-SAD government has recently been returned to power. We are going to repeat it in Himachal also this time.
Why do you think people will vote for BJP this time?
This is not me but the people of the State who are saying that BJP government will bounce back to power again because the Dhumal government has done extremely well despite so many handicaps. The amount and pace of development has surpassed the performance of all Congress governments, which did pretty little despite having a supporting Congress government at the Centre. BJP government has been able to present its case forcefully with the Centre as a result of which it has been able to surmount this handicap. It has been able to secure many central projects and institutions for the State. BJP government has earned the patting of Union government in many spheres, like implementation of 20-point prograamme surpassing Congress governments even.
BJP government has not only implemented in letter and spirit every promise made in the 2007 election but also went much beyond that. This has infused a greater sense of faith in the mind of the people. Every section of the society is happy because the Dhumal government has done something or the other for everyone.
There is a great turmoil within the opposition Congress, your main challenger. How do you see it?
I do not wish to comment on it. It is the internal matter of Congress and BJP has nothing to do with it. All I know is that BJP's only rival is the Congress and we have to humble it decisively this time again. Who is the leader of Congress doesn’t matter to us.
A court has ordered framing of corruption charges against former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife. How do you see it?
It is not a political matter. All I can say is that the court found a prima facie criminal case against both Shri Virbhadra Singh and his wife that it decided to frame corruption charges against them. He is the first Chief Minister of the State to be embroiled in a criminal case. Now that the matter is before the court, law will take its own course. That the Prime Minister accepted Virbhadra Singh’s resignation immediately after the court order means something. Before that Shri Singh had also met Congress president Smt Sonia Gandhi.
But Virbhadra is charging CM Prof Dhumal and BJP with political vendetta.
Shri Virbhadra Singh is trying to gain political mileage out of it. The fact is that CM and BJP are not in any way involved. The CD was made public not by BJP but by Shri Singh’s one time close confidant Major Vijai Singh Mankotia who had been a minister in his cabinet. This happened in 2007 when Singh himself was the Chief Minister. All what the BJP government is doing is that it is providing Shri Singh an opportunity to prove himself innocent in a court of law.
By what time do you think BJP will finalise the names of its candidates for the ensuing assembly election?
The process is going on. Party has assessed the performance of the sitting MLAs and the chances of those who fought election last time but lost. The matter will be considered first by the State election committee and finalised after being considered by the BJP parliamentary Board in Delhi.
The criterion to be adopted?
Obviously, it will be how best the aspirants have served the party, their commitment to the ideology, rapport with the people, clean image and finally their winnability.
Can there be change of tickets of the sitting MLAs or of the old candidates who could not make it to the assembly last time?
Certainly, there can be some changes. The effect of delimitation shall also be kept in mind. Those who have failed to deliver and could not come up to the expectations of their constituents may have to be changed.
When do you expect the polling for the assembly elections to take place?
I think it will be in the last week of November after Diwali. That is the most suitable period for everybody. Religious festivals will be over. The weather too would be conducive to campaigning and polling. School examinations in winter are also expected to be over by that time.
What is BJP’s strong point in the election?
Excellent performance of the BJP government by all standards, people’s satisfaction and support, country having the most corrupt and inefficient Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, rising prices and inflation, internal and external threats facing the country.
Who will be the main star campaigners for the party in elections?
The main campaigners will be our veteran leader Shri Shanta Kumar and Chief Minister Prof Prem Kumar Dhumal. From the Centre we have a galaxy of star campaigners led by our national president Shri Nitin Gadkari who will be campaigning. As the campaign gets steam, we will decide, as per demand in a particular area, who will campaign where.
How far will you inject new and young blood in the party?
Party will certainly do its best to inject young blood wherever possible.
Will the youth and women get adequate representation in nomination to State assembly elections?
Certainly. Where youth and women stand a good chance to win, they will certainly get preference. But our main concern is the winnability of the candidate.
How do you propose to deal with those who left BJP recently to form a new party?
The matter stands closed as far as BJP is concerned.
How strong do you feel is the challenge of the third front that is trying to raise its head in the elections?
Third front has never been a force in Himachal elections. It is only BJP Vs Congress. If ever third front has won a few seats, after elections it has ceased to exist; its members have later joined BJP or Congress. That is the history.