BJP's chief ministerial candidate for Himachal Pradesh poll Prem Kumar Dhumal tells MANISH ANAND in an interview that the party chief Amit Shah has given tough message to rebels against indulging in anti-party activities.
He also adds that restoring faith in rule of law will be his top priority in the event BJP is elected to power in December 18.
Qn. The BJP chief Amit Shah announced you as the chief ministerial candidate at a time when just 10 days were left for polling. Did the announcement come a little late?
Dhumal: I don't think there's anything personal in the decision to announce a CM candidate for me. In fact, Himachal Pradesh being a small state has a tradition of people knowing before polling who are the chief ministerial candidates. The people in the state want to know the chief minister personally. I would like to remind that the then BJP president L K Advani had announced me as the chief ministerial candidate while addressing a rally when only three days were left for polling. I was a Lok Sabha MP at that time.
Qn. The BJP's loss in the 2012 Assembly elections was apparently attributed to faction fighting in the party. How is the BJP dealing with the prospect of such internal party bickering?
Dhumal: The BJP chief Amit Shah has sent out a loud message against anti-party activities. Barring a couple of rebel candidates, the BJP is a united house. In fact, the Congress is a deeply divided House in this poll.
Qn. How is your relations with the party veteran Shanta Kumar and Union Minister J P Nadda, who was also seen as a CM candidate probable?
Dhumal: After the BJP chief Amit Shah announced me as the chief ministerial candidate, Nadda was the first to congratulate me followed by the party organisational secretary Ram Lal and the veteran Shanta Kumar. Afterwards, they all affirmed during the Prime Minister's rally at Kangra the resolve to win the polls.
Qn. It's being seen that there's an unofficial age limit of 75 years for those occupying official positions after Modi took reign at the Centre. Will it come in play in your case in another two years?
Dhumal: We will cross the bridge when we reach there.
Qn. Prime Minister Modi had been in-charge of Himachal Pradesh when he was party general secretary. How is your bond with him now?
Dhumal: Modi was with us on March 24, 1998 when I was sworn in as the chief minister of the state for the first time. We were in an embrace and the photograph of that moment still hangs prominently at my place. Modi has been a guide, friend and philosopher for me. He has been very objective. He calls a spade a spade.
Qn. Himachal Pradesh reportedly has a debt in excess of Rs 50000 crore. Do you think that Modi could bail out the state in the event of BJP forming government in the state?
Dhumal: Debt is not unique to Himachal Pradesh. Many other states too are under debt. We don't favour seeking any special package from the Centre. We can deal with the situation ourselves.
Qn. What are the issues on which you're seeking a mandate in the state?
Dhumal: There had been multiple cases which have eroded faith of people in the rule of law. The state is firmly in the grip of mafias with stranglehold on forest, mining and transfer and posting. Forest guards have been killed for exposing the mafia. The CBI has undertaken probe in a few cases. Similarly, sand mining is rampant in the state. Corruption is rampant in the state. We would need to restore rule of law in the state. There is drug mafia operating here with scores of incidents of youth dying being reported. We have to crush down the drug mafia. We need to uproot crop of marijuana and give people alternative farming option.
Qn. In your previous terms, you were known for building roads. What next lies for you if December 18 brings the BJP to power?
Dhumal: I had set up special economic zone at Baddi which attracted number of textile and pharmaceutical firms, besides modern market places. We need to re-start the initiative to attract investment in the state.