We are seeing pro-incumbency: Himachal CM Jai Ram Thakur

There appears to be a deal between the Congress and the AAP, he says

Jai Ram Thakur | Sanjay Ahlawat Jai Ram Thakur | Sanjay Ahlawat

Q/ Your first election as chief minister. How confident are you?

A/ We are very confident. No party has [retained power] since 1985. A start has to be made, [and] it will happen here. The same government (BJP) was repeated in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

Q/ Who is your main opponent?

A/ The Congress has been working hard, and we know the elections are difficult. When our government was formed, we did not work with a sense of vindictiveness against the Congress. Instead, we focused on work.

Q/ What about the AAP?

A/ There appears to be a deal between the Congress and the AAP. The AAP has left Himachal for the Congress, while the Congress has left Gujarat for the AAP. The AAP never really had any traction here.

Q/ Will Prime Minister Narendra Modi save the day for the BJP?

A/ Our double-engine government works under his leadership and guidance. He gifted the state a medical college, the Bilaspur AIIMS, a bulk drug park and a Vande Bharat train. The people will give him a return gift.

Q/ People talk about anti-incumbency.

A/ The state is seeing pro-incumbency for the first time. In every constituency, development work worth Rs150 crore to Rs200 crore has been done. Even Congress leaders have acknowledged this.

Q/ We hear about charges of corruption, inflation and lack of jobs.

A/ Inflation is troubling the whole world, [but] I believe this period will not last long. [As for employment,] we started the Swavalamban scheme, [under which] more than 10,000 people have got employment.

Q/ The BJP lost four byelections in 2021.

A/ The issues are different during byelections and assembly elections. In the Mandi Lok Sabha [byelection], the Congress sought votes on an emotional issue (death of former chief minister Virbhadra Singh). We experimented in some seats, which did not pay off. That is history now.

Q/ The Congress and the AAP appear to adopt soft hindutva.

A/ The Congress is confused. It adopts this strategy during the elections only to desert it later. For us, these are core issues.

Q/ What is your main plank?

A/ For different government schemes... the state has spent over Rs1,033 crore. [These have] more than 10 lakh beneficiaries.

Q/ The return to the old pension scheme seems to be a factor.

A/ The Congress government closed the old pension scheme (in 2004). We are trying to find a practical solution regarding the OPS. Only a double-engine government can solve this issue.