Taking part in a space on Twitter on November 8, Thakur exuded confidence of winning. He said the BJP’s campaign was far more effective than that of the Congress. The stature of leaders and their number campaigning in the hill state were higher than the Congress.
The Himachal Pradesh CM said no government (either of the BJP or the Congress) had repeated in the assembly elections since 1984. “Hum riwaaz badlengey (We will change the convention),” he said.
In a significant statement, Thakur said the BJP was lagging behind the Congress at one point in time. “We had tipped down at one point in time. But now the situation has improved. Hum naya riwaz banayenge (We will set a new convention),” he said.
He claimed, “We are ahead of the Congress in visibility… Rahul Gandhi is invisible… They have only one prominent leader (Himachal Pradesh Congress president) Pratibha Singh who is active. Is baar riwaaz badlega (The convention [of changing government every five years] will change this time).”
However, the CM said three issues were sticking points for the BJP in the state poll. He listed the old pension scheme (OPS); votes of government servants and government jobs; and rebellion as the three issues which were worrying the BJP in the state.
He claimed that fortunately the rebellion had subsided and the Centre was taking care of the other two issues.
Meanwhile, under a clever strategy, the Congress has also been trying to corner the BJP government mainly on these three issues.
Old Pension Scheme (OPS)
Several Congress leaders, such as All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, who is also the organisation’s senior observer for Himachal Pradesh assembly election, have raised the issue of implementing the old pension scheme (OPS) if the party came back to power in the state after the election.
In one of her election rallies, Priyanka announced that OPS would be implemented by the Congress government in its very first cabinet meeting.
Speaking on November 9 in Banuti in support of party candidate from the Shimla Rural assembly constituency Vikramaditya Singh, Baghel alleged that the BJP was not talking about OPS. “The day our manifesto was released, the PM was in Himachal Pradesh. But he did not speak about it. Even on November 6, the day our manifesto was released, the BJP kept silent,” he said.
The Chhattisgarh CM said the Congress manifesto has promised that OPS would be implemented within 10 days of the party forming government in the state. “OPS has been implemented in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. I assure you that Himachal Pradesh would be the fourth state where it would be implemented,” he said.
He said it was discussed that the central government would not pay money for the scheme. But that money was not theirs but of the employees and officials of the state or the state cadre, he said.
Baghel said a portion of the money belonged to the state government. “How will the central government stop it? Let me tell you that 2 lakh employees of Himachal Pradesh have entered into an agreement on a personal level. They will withdraw their money and the central government will just watch. They will create a corpus fund here. No one can stop this from happening,” he said.
On the other hand, PM Modi, while addressing an election rally in Chambi on November 9, said the Centre had launched pension and insurance policies so that everyone got covered under social security. A regular pension plan has been prepared for farmers, farm labourers and small shop owners.
The PM accused the Congress of raising the age for pension at 80 years. “We could also have further raised the age bar. But we did not do that because we have an immense feeling of respect for the senior citizens. We reduced the age limit to 60 years and also removed the condition for earnings. Lakhs of senior citizens who were not in the list of the Congress government have started getting pension,” he said.
The Congress has targetted the BJP over rebellion after ticket distribution and also alleged that the ruling party lacked internal democracy.
Baghel said internal democracy existed in the Congress but not in the BJP. He cited the video clip in which PM Modi was purportedly heard talking to a senior rebel BJP leader Kripal Parmar and coaxing him to withdraw from the election.
He alleged that BJP rebels were contesting on 21 out of 68 seats (on about one-third of the total seats) in Himachal Pradesh due to their anger against party president JP Nadda, who hails from the state.
The Chhattisgarh CM said, “Everyone would also have seen the video clip in which PM Modi was seen talking to Kripal Parmar and asking him to withdraw from the election. Parmar said he was harassed by Nadda for 15 years.”
He also referred to the election of Kharge as Congress president on October 19 and said, “But no one knows how Nadda was elected as BJP president for the second term.”
Government servants and jobs
The Himachal Pradesh CM noted that government employees generally voted against the BJP. “This is a matter of worry. The party is trying to ensure that government employees wholly do not vote against us.”
The BJP and the Congress are trying to woo the voters by promising government jobs.
Modi said in Chambi that the BJP’s double engine government at the Centre and in Himachal Pradesh was constantly creating new opportunities for the youths. The central government has launched a programme to give 10 lakh employment to the youths. The moment a BJP government is formed in Himachal Pradesh, employment fairs would be accelerated. The industrial development of the state was also paving the path for new employment opportunities, the PM said.
Modi further said, “Himachal is getting a bulk drug park and medical device park. Himachal Pradesh is one of the three-four states which is getting these industries. Common service centres have also given employment.”
Kharge, while addressing his first public rally in Banuti after getting elected as Congress president on October 19, talked about the vacant government posts. He said there were 65,000 posts waiting to be filled in Himachal Pradesh. But the government was not filling them.
Baghel, on his part, said the Congress would give 1 lakh jobs to the youths in the state.