SHIMLA: There is no anti-incumbency against the sitting BJP lawmakers in the Lok Sabha elections, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur says. Rather there is more "josh" (zeal) this time to win with bigger margins and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's name alone will win Bharatiya Janata Party the Lok Sabha elections. "All other issues are secondary to Modiji", he says.
For him, the BJP governments both at the Centre and the states would fire up the development engine.
"Modiji is all encompassing -- his name is enough to win us the election. All other issues are secondary. Our MPs have strengthened Modiji's hand at the Centre. They have done their part and they were instrumental in taking projects to Parliament," the 54-year-old Chief Minister told IANS in an interview here.
He said the state government is here to boost development. "There is no anti-incumbency against our two sitting MPs, rather more 'josh' this time to gain bigger margins."
The hill state, whose economy is highly dependent on hydroelectric power, horticulture and tourism, will go to the polls on May 19 (in the last phase) for the four Lok Sabha seats -- Shimla, Mandi, Hamirpur and Kangra.
The BJP has fielded Suresh Kashyap, Ram Swaroop Sharma, Anurag Thakur and Kishan Kapoor from these seats.
While Sharma and Thakur are the sitting MPs, the other two are the sitting legislators.
For almost two decades, every electoral battle in the state is led by BJP's two-time Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. And it is for the first time that it is minus Dhumal at the helm.
On this, five-time legislator Thakur replied with a gentle smile that the elections were fought with collective efforts and with collective strategy.
"Being head of the state I would have greater responsibility to motivate the activists to ensure the victory.
"During my tenure as a state BJP President, the party had returned to power (in 2007). In the last one and a half years of my government, I have travelled almost all 68 Assembly constituencies to establish direct contact with the common man."
"I am fully confident that the BJP will retain all the four Lok Sabha seats," he added.
Soft spoken Thakur maintained "if there is double engine (the BJP government both in the state and the Centre) we can drive the state forward".
"With Modiji's intervention, we got projects worth more than Rs 10,000 crore sanctioned in this short period. We have introduced Himachal Healthcare Scheme to supplement the Ayushman Bharat Yojana and launched Himachal Grahini Suvidha Yojana to strengthen the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.
"Undoubtedly yes, Modiji is everywhere and this factor will work in the state too," he said.
On the main opposition Congress saying that it is literally Thakur versus former Telecom Minister Sukh Ram in the Mandi seat, Thakur stated categorically: "I don't see it like that."
"We have always given respect to Pandit Sukh Ram but he became turncoat in politics for his self-development, this is not fair on his part. This time people of Mandi are happy that one of their legislator has been appointed as Chief Minister for the first time."
Political observers say Thakur's prestige is at stake to retain the Mandi seat as incumbent MP Ram Swaroop Sharma, known for his proximity to the Chief Minister, is facing anti-incumbency and his main opponent is defected BJP leader Sukh Ram, who is campaigning aggressively for his grandson and Congress greenhorn candidate Ashray Sharma.
Sukh Ram has been dubbed an 'Aya Ram Gaya Ram'.
On being asked why the BJP has never nominated a woman candidate in the state for the Lok Sabha polls, Thakur replied: "The BJP doesn't give ticket on the basis of caste, creed or gender. Chances of winning is the sole criterion. We have women Ministers, legislators and chairperson of boards and corporations."