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The Rediff Election Interview/Virbhadra Singh

February 24, 2003

'Himachalis will defeat the BJP'

Although former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh admits to factions within his party, he is confident the Congress will form the next government in the state.

Accusing the BJP of legitimising corruption in the state, the former raja of Rampur Bhushair told Onkar Singh the BJP would fail in Himachal Pradesh.

Now that the poll campaign has come to an end, how do you assess your chances?

The Congress will form the new government in Himachal Pradesh. The campaign has gone off as expected. We will win at least 40 seats. We could win even more. We have covered the entire length and breadth of the state and have got tremendous response from the people.

You have not visited your constituency. Why?

I have an understanding with my electorate that I will look after them throughout my term, visit them often and listen to them -- in return they would give me the freedom of not visiting the constituency during polling. My party people are looking after my campaign on my behalf while I am campaigning for the party elsewhere in the state.

You have accused Chief Minister Prem Dhumal of amassing wealth. Do you have any proof?

Corruption is a major issue in the election in Himachal Pradesh. Allegations against the chief minister are just one part. During the BJP rule, corruption has been more or less legitimised. It has entered almost all aspects of governmental functioning.

The allegation of amassing wealth against Chief Minister Dhumal is not wrong. Captain Amarinder Singh, the chief minister of Punjab, has gone on record that Dhumal has properties worth Rs 42 crore in just one district of the state.

The chief minister has not denied the allegations. In his reply he has said the properties do not belong to him but to his relatives. And who are the relatives? Sons, daughters, wife and other close kin of the chief minister. This amounts to accepting the fact that he has properties in Punjab.

Dhumal says he filed a defamation suit against Amarinder Singh and others because the allegations were false.

He has gone to court so that the Congress does not talk about the allegations at its public meetings, so that the media does not write about it. Nothing is going to come out of this suit. He wanted to prevent this from snowballing into a poll issue.

Are you saying the Himachalis believe the allegations against Dhumal are true?

Of course. You go to any part of the state and you will find people debating the issue. He does not enjoy a good reputation amongst the people who tend to believe the allegations against him even without questioning them.

He says Raja Virbhadra Singh does not approve of a commoner like him as chief minister and that is why these allegations are being made against him.

This is a fantastic argument. Barring myself all the previous chief ministers come from non-princely families. I was made chief minister not because of my family connections but because of my long and unblemished service to the people of Himachal Pradesh. I was elected chief minister through the same democratic process as Dhumal. So how are things different in my case?

If elected to power what will the Congress government do for the people?

Only one thing -- provide a clean and responsive administration to the people. This would be our main task. We will develop all regions of the state irrespective of whether they are near the capital or in far-flung places. The interiors need more attention.

In Himachal, development has always played a major role. We started from zero and today the state has reached a certain stage of development that we can be proud of. No matter what Dhumal says about the role of Congress governments, the people know what he says is not true.

Is Sukh Ram a factor in the Himachal assembly election?

As an individual he may be a factor in Himachal politics but if you are talking about his party -- the Himachal Vikas Congress, I am afraid he is not a factor. He is unlikely to repeat the performance of the 1998 election. His popularity has gone down. All the telephone exchanges set up when he was communications minister in the Narasimha Rao government are now out of order. He had encashed on those telephone connections in the last election. This is not going to work now. You should not be surprised if Sukh Ram loses from Mandi Sadar.

Is the Hindu card working in Himachal Pradesh?

Prime Minister Vajpayee tried to use the Hindu card by referring to the ban on cow slaughter, Ram Mandir etc. I do not think the BJP will succeed in Himachal Pradesh. The Hindu card will not work here. They have realised if they try to do so it would boomerang on them. The meetings addressed by the prime minister and Deputy Prime Minister Advani were poorly attended.

Will Sonia Gandhi make an impact on the Himachalis?

Her meetings had large gatherings at all five venues. Her rallies were tremendous.

Vajpayee says give me Dhumal and I would give you development: that's what the BJP posters read. Do you think this would pay off?

Certainly not. Himachalis are not going to be fooled by this. Does it mean that if there is a non-BJP government in Himachal Pradesh, the central government will not release funds for development of the state? The Congress has governments in 15 states. So far they are functioning effectively.

BJP President Venkaiah Naidu says the Himachal elections will be the quarter final.

He can say so and hope that he wins the quarter final, so that he can play in the semi final and the final. The people of Himachal Pradesh are going to give them a befitting reply. This is a crucial election. If the BJP succeeds here they will carry their Hindu agenda forward in other states as well. The people of our state are going to defeat the designs of the BJP by defeating them in the assembly poll.

Who would be chief minister in case the Congress wins -- Virbhadra Singh or Vidya Stokes?

The Congress knows who will lead the party if we are voted back to power. The leader of the party would be elected in consultation with the high command in New Delhi.

Design: Dominic Xavier 

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Number of User Comments: 7

Sub: HP elections-interview of Veerbhadra Singh

The party would win who shall take out the voters and bring to the polling booth. RSS does this but Congress workers are very lethargic ...

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Sub: Himachal Results

Dear Sir, My congratulations to Congress for defeating the fascist forces of Hindutva. In case BJP wants to come in power again they will have ...

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Sub: about himachal election

How Mr. Virbhadra is saying that cong. will win the election and he should have to know that to make win on BJP is very ...

Posted by vikas kashib

Sub: Splendid Work by Next CM Mr Veer Bhadra Singh

It just the begining for Congress it has to go a long way nnow to the centre Also uproot the last hope of BJP to ...


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Our hearty congrajulation to soniaji and Mr. veerapatrasingh

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