'Crowd Came to Modi Rallies Despite a Hostile Government'
Veteran BJP leader Shanta Kumar was called back from his retirement to fight the Lok Sabha election. Excerpts from an interview with the 80-year-old two-time former chief minister and Union minister who is fielded in Kangra constituency.
Q: Is there a Modi factor in Himachal?
Yes, there is a Modi factor in the state—it could be seen even in remote villages. One could see it in the crowds in the rallies he addressed. Despite the state’s Congress government which tried to stop people, people came as they want a change.
Q: You had taken retirement from electoral politics. What led you to revoke your decision?
Last time, I decided not to fight the election. But this time the party asked me to fight this all-important election and I cannot say no to the party and the workers.
Q: You have been fighting against corruption and you also raised your voice against your own BJP Government. Is your stand on corruption now diluted?
I have been raising the issue of corruption for many years and will be raising it in the future also. I even raised it at the UN that the black money which is stashed in the Swiss bank accounts should be brought back to India as already 20 countries have got the money back from there. A magazine there published the name of former PM Rajiv Gandhi with his account number. If it was not correct, then why did the Congress not file a defamation case against that magazine?
Q: What are the issues in Himachal Pradesh in these elections?
Rampant corruption, rising prices and inflation are affecting the common men. The Central Government has failed in all respects as its authority has been diluted.
Q: Have you been campaigning in all seats as the tallest leader of the BJP?
I have been campaigning everywhere, besides my own seat.
Q: BJP has focused on lower Himachal and ignored upper Himachal.
This is not the case. The party has done all-round development. In these elections, the focus is Delhi and not local issues.
Q: Just 18 months ago the BJP lost the Assembly elections due to non-governance issues. How do you think you will retain the three Lok Sabha seats? Since 1970, the government in power in the state has won maximum seats.
We will retain our three Lok Sabha seats while the Congress might only get one seat. The people are fed up of prise rise and corruption. The chief minister has no issues on which he can win.
Q: Has the Aam Aadmi Party made any impact in Himachal?
There is no impact of AAP. It has always been a two-party fight between BJP and Congress and this time also it is the same.