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The Rediff Interview/Prem Kumar Dhumal
February 14, 2003
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal is confident his Bharatiya Janata Party will return to power in next fortnight's assembly election. "We have done tremendous development work in Himachal Pradesh in the last five years," he told Chief Correspondent Onkar Singh in an exclusive interview in Shimla.
Dhumal has come under attack from Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, a Congressman, who alleges that
You have announced the formation of new districts in the state after the election. Is it feasible and necessary?
Of course, this is feasible. That is why we announced the formation of new districts once the BJP returns to
A few months ago you made Dharmshala the state's second capital. Was it necessary?
Dharmshala has a unique location. It is central to Chamba, Kangra, Hamirpur, Unna, Mandi, Bilaspur and Kullu.
Won't you incur more expenditure in moving your government from one place to another?
We are not transferring the entire capital from Shimla to Dharmshala. Only important functionaries will go on tour. We can have our cabinet meetings in Dharmshala in winter. We could discuss so many things through the Internet. If necessary we can resort to videoconferencing to arrive at quick decisions. We would save a lot of money as well.
Captain Amarinder Singh has leveled allegations of corruption against you.
By making those baseless, trivial charges he has not only hurt me, he has hurt the sentiments of self-respecting Himachalis. We feel a grave insult has been heaped on the people of Himachal Pradesh by the feudalistic chief minister
He says you have gone to court to prevent further damage to your reputation. Once the election is over, you will withdraw the case.
There is no question of withdrawing the case. My reputation does not depend upon allegations made by Captain
Amarinder Singh is trying to please the Congress high command. The people of Himachal Pradesh will give him a fitting reply. They will give their verdict on February 26 and tell him that the days of fedual lords are over. This is democracy and we believe in it.
You have said Himachal Pradesh will introduce anti-conversion legislation. Will it be on the lines of the law adopted in Tamil Nadu or the one Narendra Modi is contemplating in Gujarat?
It has become necessary to bring this bill because we have been getting reports that some forcible conversions are taking place in the state. We will study the law in Tamil Nadu and other states and then have an anti-conversion bill of our own. We want to nip in the bud efforts to convert people by force or by luring them.
Will your party return to power?
The BJP will return to power with a thumping majority. We will get more than a two thirds majority. The Congress is indirectly helping us by resorting to falsehood and malicious propaganda against the state administration, particularly my family.
Nobody can deny that Sukh Ram is a factor in the assembly election. But no one will be allowed to stand in the way of the BJP wave.
What would be your immediate goals if you return to power?
My immediate goal would be to provide more and more relief to the people of Himachal Pradesh, provide employment to unemployed youth and make Himachal a prosperous state. We would also make sure there is no scope for character assassination. In the budget session we will pass a bill that would make it mandatory for every MLA to declare his assets within three months of getting elected. These declarations would be available with the speaker. Anyone could go to the Lok Ayukta if someone has filed a false declaration.
Design: Uttam Ghosh
The Rediff Interviews