‘Many Times, I Felt Suffocation in Politics’
Former chief minister and BJP Member of Parliament Shanta Kumar is known for his visionary policies and still remembered as ‘Paaniwala mukhyamantri’ for his contribution in solving drinking water problem in the hilly state. Himachal is getting Rs 2250 crore annually as royalty from hydro power projects due to Shanta’s vision envisaged during his second term as Himachal chief minister in 1990. Though Shanta had to pay a heavy political price, yet the senior BJP leader is known as a politician who never compromised with his principles.
Himachal This Week’s Susheel Rajesh talked to Shanta Kumar regarding his polices for the development of Himachal and nation. Following are the excerpts of the interview:
HTW:You have remained Himachal’s chief minister on two occasions. How successful have been the initiatives taken by you for developing Himachal?
Shanta Kumar: I had the opportunity to lead a first non Congress government in Himachal. I believe that tourism in the state and hydrpower generation from water flowing in rivers can change Himachal’s economy. Credit goes to people of the state and the then BJP government as Himachal is getting Rs 2250 crore as 12% royalty on hydropower generation. I had raised the issue of 12% royalty with the Centre when I became chief minister for the second term in 1990. Then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao accepted this demand and Himachal started getting royalty. Work to provide drinking water in difficult areas also started on a war footing during my tenure. Antyodya Yojna was started and 1800 families were benefitted in one year.
HTW: Has the Centre understood state’s interests in policy for power projects?
Shanta Kumar: Decisions regarding royalty and participation of private sector would not have been possible in Himachal’s favour if the Centre had not understood state’s interests in hydro power generation projects.
HTW:What should be the behaviour of Centre towards hill states?
Shanta Kumar: Due to difficult geographical conditions, priorities of Himalayan states are different from plain areas. Roads are lifeline in hilly areas. It is good that Modi government has benefited Himachalis by spreading a network of roads here. It indicates that Modi government is fully aware of priorities of hilly states.
HTW: What are the obstacles in establishing cement plants?
Shanta Kumar: Politics of confrontation is biggest hurdle in development in the country. Ruling and opposition parties should practice politics of cooperation. I am trying to solve the issue of cement plant in Chamba that is pending since long.
HTW: Non expansion of rail network in Himachal reflects indifferent attitude of centre towards the state…?
Shanta Kumar: No, Rail budget included survey for gauge upgradation of Pathankot-Jogindernagar rail line, proposed construction of Pathankot-Manali-Leh rail line, 80 km laying of Jogindernagar-Mandi rail line, Bhanupali-Bilaspur rail line and these projects have reached a decisive stage during past two years of Modi government.
HTW: You promised to develop Khajjiar as Switzerland but the project was restricted to only a stone there, why?
Shanta Kumar: Motive to install a plate in Khajjiar depicting distance from Switzerland was to bring Himachal’s tourism on world map. This decision was taken to attract foreign tourists. We can achieve our aim if concrete and far reaching policy is framed to tap hill tourism sector.
HTW: Is the state not suffering due to fight between present Chief minister and former chief minister?
Shanta Kumar: It can’t be termed personal fight if the opposition is based on principles and ideological commitments. Ruling and opposition are two wheels of democracy and development is possible only if both run smoothly.
HTW: How do you visualise state’s politics? What is future picture?
Shanta Kumar: Virbhadra government is striving for its existence. People are well aware of what is happening. Positive work of BJP government in the centre will have its impact on Himachal too.
HTW: You have given dozens of schemes running in the country even now. Are you visualising more schemes in the series?
Shanta Kumar: I left no stone unturned in service of the nation whenever I got an opportunity. I started for the first time privatization in hydro power sector from Himachal. A lot of work has been done in drinking water supply and people still remember me as ‘Paaniwala mukhyamantri’. As Food Minister, I started Antyodya scheme in entire country and this scheme is still continuing.
HTW: Are you relevant in politics of today’s era?
Shanta Kumar: There has been devaluation in politics. Many times, I felt suffocation in politics. I entered politics at the age of 19-20 years and politics was considered as service and dedication to country. Much has changed in politics of power. Many a times, I feel that we don’t have any role in today’s politics.
* Virbhadra government is striving for its existence. People are well aware of what is happening
-Shanta Kumar BJP Member of Parliament