Rahul goes missing in HP: Congress MLA says Priyanka Bigger Star

| Updated: 07 November, 2022 7:09 pm IST

In the absence of Congress’s traditional face Virbhadra Singh,  Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu has emerged as a popular leader in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh The three-time MLA from the Nadaun constituency is considered to be a frontrunner for the Chief Minister’s position in case Congress emerges victorious, along with the wife of the late leader and Mandi MP Pratibha Singh.

He, however, refuses to address the issue and maintains the official party line about Congress CM candidate. That any of the elected MLAs is eligible to be CM of Himachal Pradesh.

Sukhu dodges questions on Rahul Gandhi’s complete absence from the Himachal poll scene by saying that there is no bigger star campaigner than Priyanka Gandhi.

In an exclusive chat with The New Indian’s Assistant Editor Anand Singh, Sukhu talks in detail about how Congress plans to fulfil the promises it has made to the people of Himachal like 300 units of free electricity, and 8 lakh job for the youth.

Excerpts from the interview.

Anand: Congress has promised one lakh government job in Himachal Pradesh among many other promises. How will it help the party in elections?

Sukhu: We have promised 5 lakh job opportunity to youths of Himachal which includes one lakh government jobs. Already there are 63,000 government job vacancies. We have to create 37,000 new vacancies. We have also talked about creating 4 lakh private job opportunities. Our priority is that once we are voted to power we will create such an atmosphere where the opportunities will be created in government as well as in private sector.

Anand: Congress has announced 300 units of electricity, Rs 1,500 per women every month, four time valuation of land if the lands are acquired for government government projects. How will it be done?

Sukhu: When AAP government in Delhi and Punjab, despite both not being electricity surplus state can provide free electricity after buying it from DISCOMs, why can’t Himachal. 

Himachal Pradesh produces 12,000 MW of electricity and we get 12 per cent of free power. After selling electricity, the state government earns around 2,000 to 3,000 crore. To give  300 units of electricity for free, we will have to spend only Rs 500 crore.  So we are going forward, and we will ensure that our promises are fulfilled. 

Anand: How the promise of restoration of Old Pension Scheme (OPS) will be fulfilled when the BJP is saying that the state has a debt of over Rs 70,000 crore?

Sukhu: The OPS will be restored. This is for the employees and people of the state. The officials who had worked for the state and played a role in development of the state will be provided the OPS as it will be a part of social security. And when the Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan governments can ensure the implementation of the OPS, then Himachal can also do the same.

Anand: Apple growers are facing challenge due to GST on fungicides and packaging materials, and you have promised that you will make a committee. What will you do for the apple growers if voted to power?

Sukhu: Farmers who are in agriculture will be kept out of GST ambit. GST should be implemented on manufacturers. And the cartons of the apple growers will be freed from GST.

Anand: You are contesting from Nadaun once again. How has been your campaigning so far?

Sukhu: I am out in people’s court and people of the assembly will decide. And on November 12, we will know about the same whether they decide to shower their love or reject me. All will be known on the day results will be announced.

Anand: Earlier Virbhadra Singh was the face of Congress in the state.  In his absence, you along with Pratibha Singh are being pitted as chief ministerial candidates. What do you have to say about that? 

Sukhu: I keep on saying, whoever becomes an MLA is a contender for the chief ministerial post. All the 68 members are contenders. A CM face is not necessary as long as we are all fighting on Congress ideology and symbol. People of Himachal Pradesh know who will lead them in the state. Merely announcing the name of the Chief Ministerial candidate is not important but the man who can serve the people will lead the party  and will be the chief minister.

Anand: There is a suspense on Himachal Pradesh Congress chief Pratibha Singh and your name as CM probable. What you have to say? 

Sukhu: The party high command has already clarified on this issue that the chief minister will be an MLA.

Anand: Union Cabinet last month cleared the way to provide ST status to Hatti community. Do you feel that it may swing the votes in favour of the BJP in Sirmaur’s five assembly seats?

Sukhu: Union Cabinet has only talked about giving ST status to Hatti community. They are yet to provide ST status to them. If Union Cabinet would had been serious about fulfilling this promise they would have brought an ordinance. By making this announcement just before the elections, they are just misleading people. It is just an eyewash. For the promise to become a reality, the government needs to bring in the amendment bill in Parliament. 

Anand: PM Modi, Amit Shah and other top BJP leaders are campaigning aggressively in Himachal Pradesh, while Congress Rahul Gandhi is yet to campaign in elections.

Sukhu: Is there a bigger star campaigner than Priyanka Gandhi? All our MLA candidates are star campaigners. After 2014, the political dynamics in elections have changed. Now people want to attend small rallies. Now campaigning is less about party base and more focused on the candidate’s support base. And the BJP will be left embarrassed as they have not given anything to people. 

Priyanka Gandhi has been campaigning aggressively in the poll bound hill state even as his brother and former party chief Rahul Gandhi is leading the party’s 3,570 km Bharat Jodo Yatra.

Rahul Gandhi has not addressed a single public meeting in the poll bound state after the date of election was announced by the Election Commission.

The polling for Himachal Pradesh is scheduled on November 12 and counting of votes will take place on December 8.

Besides Pratibha Singh and Sukhu, thr name of Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Mukesh Agnihotri is also doing the rounds for the Chief Ministerial post. Agnihotri is contesting from Haroli assembly seat of Una district of the state.

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