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‘With Dhumal as CM face, Modi & Shah want to escape blame for BJP’s impending defeat’

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Himachal CM Virbhadra Singh in an exclusive interview claims that voters will reject BJP because of policies such as note ban and GST.

Amid the frenetic campaigning for the assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh, chief minister Virbhadra Singh is probably the epitome of calmness. Faced with the task of defending his five-year rule, the octogenarian Congress leader is trying to make history by winning another term.

Excerpts from an interview with Associate Editor Chitleen K. Sethi:

The BJP has made corruption as its biggest election plank and you are being referred to as a ‘CM on bail’.

It is so convenient for them. First, they register false cases against me and when I get bail, which is my right, they hold that against me, talking about it in every rally. If I am out on bail, what about their CM candidate, Prem Kumar Dhumal, and his son? Aren’t they on bail too?

BJP thinks they can come to power by attacking me. But I am not afraid of their threats.

Virbhadra Singh while on the campaign trail in Himachal Pradesh
Virbhadra Singh on the campaign trail | Source: Chitleen Sethi

But you are not defending yourself in your election speeches.

Yes, I think it is my problem and I will sort it out myself. Why involve the people of my state in it? But now I am talking about it because the PM launched a personal attack on me. There was an income tax issue for which they roped in the ED and the CBI. Is it fair?

The other issue the BJP is holding against your government is the gang rape of the Kotkhai school girl. What do you say?

When the incident happened I immediately realised that it would snowball into a controversy with elections around the corner. The next day I wrote to the Prime Minister to get it investigated by the CBI. It has been alleged that our police carried out a biased investigation, arrested the wrong men and let the real culprits free.

Now, the probe is being handled by the CBI. Why hasn’t it arrested the right accused? The agency has been pulled up by the court twice for its incompetence. My hunch is that they too have reached the conclusion that the men our police had arrested are the real accused but are not ready to admit it as that would harm the BJP’s interests.

Also read:‘Delay in naming Himachal CM face to ensure free and fair selection of candidates’

It is said that there was huge public outcry over it and you called it a routine incident.

They were BJP sponsored protests. The incident was unfortunate but it is equally unfortunate that the BJP is milking the issue for electoral gains.

The PM has talked about five demons (tender mafia, illegal mining, among others) in Himachal.

Tell me which state doesn’t have these five demons. Is his Gujarat free of it? What about other BJP-ruled states?

You seem to be taken aback by the PM’s frontal attack on you and your government.

Yes, I am surprised. It is unbecoming of a PM to use such language. He is the PM of the whole country, not just of BJP-run states. It is not that we cannot do it (use foul language for the BJP). My speeches are not about attacking others, making personal comments but of telling people what the Congress has done for the state.

BJP’s entire central team is here for elections. But why are senior Congress leaders missing from action?

Himachal is a small state and the BJP has realised that the situation for them is tough. This is why PM is addressing rallies. Amit Shah is here for 10 days. The fact that they announced Dhumal as CM face is biggest proof that we are winning. Modi and Shah don’t want to take responsibility of the defeat and put it on Dhumal’s head.

Virbhadra Singh on the campaign trail | Source: Virbhadra Singh’s Twitter handle

Himachal has never voted for the same party for two consecutive terms. How are you so confident this time?

This time there is anger among people towards the BJP. Demonetisation and the GST have affected their vote bank. People are not falling for their false promises anymore. But most importantly they have nothing for Himachal all these years. On the other hand, the Congress has developed it from being a backward state to one comparable to the biggest states in India.

What is your biggest achievement?

My biggest contribution to the state is education, especially girls’ education. You should do a little research as to how many school, colleges and medical colleges were opened in BJP’s time and how many in our time.

You have dominated Himachal politics for 40 years. Do you think about retirement?

Let me decide what I have to do. I am getting the love of my people and I am giving it back.

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