Virbhadra’s Valiant Battle For Himachal
Sunil Sharma ( cover story )
Political temperature is rising in Himachal that goes to polls later this year. As the BJP is trying to wrest power through its Mission 50 Plus, the Congress is riding on achievements of the present tenure to accomplish its Mission Repeat. The opposition has been firing salvos at Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh facing corruption charges. The state government has been continuously taking decisions to benefit all sections of the society and all parts of Himachal. There has been politicking over delay in establishment of AIIMS with both the parties accusing each other for the same. Prime Minister laid foundation stone of this project at Bilaspur but two other programmes regarding IIIT in Una and Steel processing Unit in Kangra were later added to the initial programme. Kullu-Chandigarh flight was also started even as visits by Central ministers have increased to Himachal. Undeterred by BJP’s attacks, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has been fighting a valiant battle for Himachal and Himachalis. He has been advocating state’s concerns before the Centre besides fulfilling demands of various scetions of the society and different parts.
Himachal government constituted second municipal corporation of the state in Dharamshala in Kangra district. The city was also selected in Smart City project of the Centre.
Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has been the main target of opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in the run up to general assembly elections due later this year. The opposition has been raising corruption cases faced by Virbhadra Singh at all its public meetings addressed by its state and Central leaders. Be it Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Bilaspur, BJP national president Amit Shah’s rally in Kangra or any other party’s leader visiting Himachal, all have been firing salvos at Virbhadra Singh thus making it the major poll plank. However, Virbhadra Singh has been fighting a valiant battle for Himachal; be it raising state’s concern before the centre of fulfilling demands of various sections of the society and differebnt areas. He leaves no chance to hit back at opposition’s allegations by terming them as ‘political vendetta’, political observers point out. In the meantime Virbhadra government has been taking important Cabinet decisions to benefit all sections of the society and all parts of this hilly state for almost two years now. These include creation of new job opportunities, opening of educational institutes, including colleges, on demand in far flung areas, opening new up-tehsils, tehsils and sub-divisions and administrative offices and various other popular decisions. Himachali electorate will analyse development undertaken by the present state Congress government in the backdrop of Centre’s financial assistance and projects to this hilly state in coming assembly elections.
Moving Goal Posts
There was much hullabaloo over establishment of AIIMS in Himachal during past years ever since it was sanctioned. Chief Minister had been blaming the Centre for delaying its foundation stone whereas the BJP had citing land issue for its delay. Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid its foundation stone at Bilaspur on October 3 this month. However, laying of foundation stone of Rs. 128 crore Indian Institute Information Technology (IIIT) at Saloh in Una district and inauguration of Rs. 70 crore Steel Processing Plant constructed at Kandrori, in Kangra district were later added to the programme.
* Foundation stone of Indian Institute Information Technology at Saloh in Una district
* Inauguration of Rs. 70 crore Steel Processing Plant constructed at Kandrori in Kangra district
Kangra: Epicenter To Power
Considered to be the politically most significant district in Himachal politics, Kangra is said to be the gateway to power in this hilly state. The party that wins maximum seats out of 15 assembly segments in Kangra forms the government in Himachal, political observers point out. The BJP fumbled in Kangra district and failed to accomplish its Mission Repeat in 2012 assembly elections and Congress assumed power. Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had been focusing on Kangra district during his present tenure with a view to retain power in 2017 assembly elections. Numerous projects have been implemented in all segments of this biggest district of the state, including constitution of Municipal Corporation and Smart City project in Dharamshala, making Nagrota a hub for technical education, opening schools and degree colleges, opening new administrative offices and others.
Central Ministers In Himachal
During past few months, visits by Union ministers to Himachal going to polls have increased. Some of the ministers have started certain developmental projects while others have been reaching Shimla as a part of BJP’s ‘Hisab Mangey Himachal’ campaign. Primarily they have been targeting Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh. Recently, Kullu-Chandigarh flight was also started on the eve of assembly polls.
Besides creating thousands of posts of various categories in different departments, enhancing honorarium and social security pension, Himachal government also provided unemployment allowance to youths.
* Retirement and death gratuity to New Pension System employees numbering about 80,000
* Financial benefits to the PTA (GIA) teachers whose services have not been taken on contract
* Contract employees to be regularised after three years
* Medical university in Mandi
* Bachelor of Architecture in Rajeev Gandhi Engineering College, Nagrota Bagwan
* Framed Jal Rakshak policy
* Education as a new subject at UG level in 13 Government Degree Colleges
* Implementation of Himachal Pradesh Universal Health Protection Scheme
* Decided to take over ESIC Medical College and Hospital Ner Chowk
* Enhanced maternity leave to women employees from 135 days to 180 days.
Riding On Performance
The upcoming assembly elections will analyse the performance of Virbhadra government vis-a-vis qualitative impact of Shah-Modi rallies in Himachal. Surprisingly, the BJP workers exhibited political enthusiasm in two rallies whereas the state government continued to gather political strength by taking decisions. It is a battle between two akharas to gain political supremacy. The BJP’s Bilaspur rally underlined party’s strength whereas Congress government is busy in taking decisions till the last moment. One needs to understand intentions behind government’s decisions. The Congress government is riding on its achievements to negate salvos fired by the opposition. It is difficult to make a consensus how much such decisions will benefit just before the implementation of model code of conduct. And the opposition will not find it easy to make it an issue as decisions are benefiting large sections of the society. Beneficial decisions can always not be popular to win elections but people construe them as welfare measures. The state government has been bridging the gap between its saying and doing even as central schemes are being started during past few months in Himachal. It will be difficult to ignore decisions taken by Virbhadra government that have benefitted all parts of the state. It is a new experiment that will analyse Himachal’s comparative political scenario. Why it is happening that a government is taking decisions right till the end of its five year tenure? Whatever it may be but it will definitely pose difficulty before BJP’s claim of sixty plus seats. The BJP has been successful in raising corruption cases faced by Virbhadra Singh and it will be opposition’s main poll plank even as the government has been on a decision taking spree. One can raise questions over many decisions and term them as unnecessary but there will be no political opposition to the benefits accrued by influential sections. The BJP has expertise in finding chinks in good governance but its biggest issue will only be Virbhadra Singh. The questions will also be raised over the Centre implementing its schemes on the eve of assembly elections in Himachal. It was evident when new programmes were added to Prime Minister’s programme at Bilaspur. There is an efforts to gain political mileage through Kullu-Chandigarh flight and visits of Union ministers to this hilly state have increased. It appears that Union and Himachal governments are trying to gain appreciation in the midst of promises and favours.