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Home > News > Report

'People are sick and tired of the BJP'

January 28, 2003 23:48 IST

As Himachal Pradesh goes to the polls on February 26, former Union communication minister Sukh Ram and his party, the Himachal Vikas Congress, have once again emerged as its key players.

Although the Himachal Vikas Congress was barely six months old during the 1998 state election, Sukh Ram held the balance of power in a fractured verdict. His party aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party, tipping the scale in their favour as opposed to the Congress.

A former Congressman, he would have preferred a Congress government but his reservations about chief ministerial aspirant Virbhadra Singh came in the way. Sukh Ram felt Singh was responsible for the CBI raids on his house that allegedly implicated him in cases of corruption.

In July 2002, a Delhi court convicted him in a corruption case in which he was accused of causing a loss of about Rs 16.8 million (Rs 1.68 crore) to the government while awarding a telecom contract to a private firm.

In an exclusive interview with Chief Correspondent Onkar Singh, Sukh Ram said he saw a Jammu and Kashmir-like situation in HP, where his party would play a decisive say in the making of the new chief minister.

Do you think the Himachal Vikas Congresswillmake a major impact in the state assembly election?

My party, the Himachal Vikas Congress, is emerging as a third force in the state. Though our party is barely six years oldwe hope to do better than last time. We are the only party that has offered a solution to the present financial crisis in the state. I have addressed a number of rallies in various parts of the state and we are getting tremendous response. This response is giving jitters to the Congress as well as the BJP. Besides the number of unemployed youth in the state has almost doubled.

What kind of financial crisis are you talking about?

The state owesRs 15,000 crore to the Government of India andReserve Bank of India. Eightyfiveper cent of the state's budget goes in paying salaries to government employees and meeting other expenditure. Whatever development work isbeing done is doneafter taking loans from banks and financial institutions.

Evenestablishment expenses are being met from loans. Pensions to widows and the aged have not been paid for months. In fact, these pensions arebeing discontinued. This should give you a clear idea of the financial crunch Himachal Pradesh is going through. Two universities in the state are notable to function properly. Two colleges in Palampur had to be shut down due to shortage of funds.

Politics in Himachal Pradesh is based on development -- and for that you need money. Where will you get that money from is a million rupee question. Nobody is prepared to give loans to Himachal Pradesh as we have already exceeded our limit along with four other states.

But the BJP is in power in Himachal Pradesh and they have their government at the Centre.

You would be surprised to knowthe list of five states that haveexceeded their loan limits has been prepared by the Union government. When the Planning Commission releases funds to the states they have to fulfil certain conditions. The states are expected to generate their own resources. The state is not being able to do that. If the loans stop then we will not be in a position to pay salaries to government employees. If they have pulled along so far it is because they had their own government at the Centre and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee went out of his way to help the state.

You announcedyour party would contest elections on its own.Now you are talking to both the BJP andCongress.

We are talking to both parties. We would go with the party that arrives at a reasonable understanding with the HVC. Whichever party agrees to give us more seats would have our support. Since 80 per cent of our party members come from the Congress, we would naturally like to have an alliance with the Congress. But we have kept our options open. We can have an alliance with the BJP as well. Whoever offers a respectable seat sharing agreement we will go with that party.

Is it trueyou are asking for 23 seats from the BJP, and18 from the Congress?

This is incorrect. We have not given any list to either the Congress or the BJP. Right now we are talking to both parties. We are in an advanced stage of negotiations. Right now we are not discussing how many seats and where.

How many seats willyour partycontest in the event you have no understanding with either party?

If talks fail then my party will contestall seats with the help of other parties in the Third Front. It includes the HVC, CPI, CPM, Janata Dal (United), Janata Dal (S). Then we have Ram Vilas Paswan's party as well. All these parties will contest 16 seats.The HVC will put upcandidates for the remaining seats.

Will youget a majority if you contest with the Third Front?

I have been touring Himachal Pradesh for the last four weeks. Wherever I have gone we have got tremendous response. The people are sick and tired of the BJP and they want to try our party.

Why should people vote for your party?

My biggest wealth in the state is my credibility. The people of my state have faith in me. They know what I say I do. They have experienced a major transformation in the field of telecommunication. This telecom revolution took place when I was Union minister for communication in the Narasimha Rao government.The Congress andBJP have not been able to deliver their promises.

Is it trueyouoffered to support the Congress toform a government if they changed the [state] leader after the1998 election?

Since I had a 35-year long association with the Congress,it was natural for me to support the party. Itold themif they agreed to change the leader and made anyone else chief minister other than Virbhadra Singh whoconspired to get me implicated in false corruption cases, then I would support them. But they did not accept my offer.

Doyou still dream of becoming chief minister?

In politics there is nothing wrong in aspiring for a higher post. One of the main reason for Virbhadra Singh's annoyance with me isIchallenged his leadership and forced him to go in for a division of votes amongst Congress MLAs. I foresee a Kashmir-like situation in our state where we could play a pivotal role in the formation of the new government. It is possiblethe HVC would have its own chief minister.

More reports from Himachal Pradesh

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Number of User Comments: 33

Sub: Oh Oh Oh

If my momory serves me right, Isnt this the same guy under whose bed a fabulous amount of money was found, and who justified the ...

Posted by RD

Sub: The Power of Indian Democracy

Yes!!! public wants "Masters" like you, who can teach them lessons to make easy and fast money.

Posted by Rajnish

Sub: allthe best

respected sir i wish all the very best to your party regards neelu

Posted by neela sharma

Sub: people are not tired!!! The opposition is.......

This is crazy.Under the garb of democracy,people tend to say anything and everything illogical.What does he know what the people want.We just want good governance ...

Posted by Shriram

Sub: dont give keys to the dacoit!

Sukh Ram ; who hmself was convicted for a scam is talking about reviving HP from financial crisis. I guess this is the best joke ...

Posted by prakash



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