Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee president Kuldeep Singh Rathore is upbeat after the bypoll results. He sees a hope and a chance for the Congress in the Assembly elections next year. In an interview to Rajesh Chander Sharma, he speaks on a wide range of issues. Excerpts:
What is your takeaway from the results of the recent bypolls in the state?
The victory reflects public mood. Inflation, unemployment, jobs for outsiders and lack of development were the main issues of the people. Besides, Himachal Pradesh is an agriculture state. So the Central farm laws too mattered a lot. The way Rahul Gandhi took up these laws made an impact in the state.
This is the best show ever by our organisation. The ruling party lost all the byelection seats. In the apple belt, the ruling party lost even the security deposit. There too the farmers are not happy with the government.
Before these polls, we had won elections to two municipal corporations of Solan and Palampur. The BJP had to contend with the municipal corporations of Dharamshala and Mandi. We had won the MC elections in spite of the money power and misuse of power which was evident in the byelections too.
These bypoll results have been the trendsetters for the whole country. (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi magic is gradually diminishing. Fuel prices have been slashed immediately as a damage control exercise.
Double engine ki sarkar logon ko raund rahi hai. Iss train ko rokane ke liye brake ki zaroorat hai jo iss chunav ne kar dikhaya hai (This government of double engine is running over people. To stop this train, we need to slam brakes on it which this election has done).
How do you see this verdict: more of anti-BJP or more of pro-Congress?
This is both. People are disillusioned with the BJP whereas we stood with all sections of society that are disturbed by the anti-people policies of the BJP government.
How are the results going to impact Assembly elections?
This was the semi-final. The final will be next year, and we will emerge victorious. The results have charged our workers. We are celebrating, but there will be no laxity on our part. We will be more active and assertive. Only one year is left of this government. We cannot expect any miracle from them. On the contrary, the results will lead to dissension in the BJP. The blame game has already started among their leaders.
Former chief minister Virbhadra Singh is no more. Who will lead the party in the Assembly elections?
We will encash the development work done by Virbhadra Singh. We are also building a strong organisation.
The BJP alleges there are so many chief ministerial candidates in the Congress. There is factionalism in the party. What do you have to say?
When I took over, I took all senior leaders into confidence. I had a dialogue with all of them. There is unity in the party which was a big factor in this election. I did not encourage factionalism.
But who is going to be your chief ministerial candidate?
My sole aim and objective is to bring the Congress back to power. It is the prerogative of the party high command to choose the chief ministerial candidate.
What are your future plans?
I intend to strengthen the party up to the booth level. My focus will be to increase the support base of the party at the grassroots level. In the remaining one year of this government, we are going to play the role of an effective and responsible opposition. Next year the Congress will form the government and revive the culture of making pro-people policies.