Battle for Himachal | An election campaign in Himachal, focused on the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) of employees

Representational Photo
Representational Photo

The outcome of Himachal polls will have national ramifications in view of 2024 parliamentary elections. Hence Bhartiya Janata Party and Congress are determined to establish the supremacy.

Prime minister, Narender Modi, union home minister, Amit Shah, national president, J.P.Nadda and chief minister, Jai Ram Thakur are leaving no stone unturned to ensure the success of their dream project “Mission Repeat”,  which will not be an easy task. There is a jinx about Himachal that even six time chief minister, Late Virbhadra Singh, two time CMs of BJP viz. Shanta Kumar and prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal could not break. BJP government faces anti-incumbency factor also and state leaders expect Modi to sail them through this critical test.

Contrary to it, Congress is banking upon resentment of employees who are adamant to get Old Pension Scheme back which has been promised by its high command besides exploiting the frustration of fifteen lakh youths who are unemployed in Himachal Pradesh.

Owing to ill -health of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi’s commitment to Bharat Jodo Yatra’, it was the turn of AICC general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi to take over the reign of Himachal Congress as a poll strategist to steer it to victory. Hence she acted as a big morale booster and motivator to the party cadres during the launch the election  campaign at Thodo Ground in Solan.

It was a big crowd which had come from different parts of the state but primarily from the districts of old Himachal including Solan, Shimla and Sirmaur which had been responsive to Priyanka’s speech who was successful in connecting with the audience specially women as she is good a orator and speaks refined Hindi. Priyanka cleverly tried to emotionally correlate herself with the people of hilly state when shared the secret of choosing Mashobra in Shimla as her second home. Priyanka disclosed that her grandmother Mrs Indira Gandhi had a desire to settle in the beautiful hills of Queen of hills hence she decided to fulfil her dream. Secondly, the Nehru- Gandhi family had a special love for people of this state and did everything to protect its independent identity which had culminated when Mrs Gandhi addressed a huge crowd at historical Ridge Maidan on January 25,1971 after fulfilling their aspiration and ambition of attainment of Statehood.    She narrated that her grandmother addressed the people while it was snowing and none moved from their place till the speech concluded. She mentioned contributions made by Dr Y.S.Parmar,Thakur Ram Lal and Virbhadra Singh in shaping up Himachal but laid emphasis on development model adopted by six time CM. While motivating the party cadres, Priyanka preferred to give weightage and authenticity to ten guarantees given in election manifesto by Congress to people of Himachal hence she reiterated to fulfil these promises which have got approval of high command. At this juncture, AICC general secretary opted to focus on unemployed youths crossing the mark of fifteen lakh and over two lakh employees who are in up in arms against BJP government as they are adamant on their demand of Old Pension scheme (OPS). She sought their support to oust the BJP government and assured to implement OPS within hours of assumption of power which had already been done in congress ruled states like Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and coalition government in Jharkhand.

Priyanka made it crystal clear that the new Congress government will immediately take two top decisions like time bound filling of 63000 posts lying vacant besides, providing employment to five lakh youths and issuance of the notification about OPS. Her speech targeted the government over the woes of apple growers, mushroom  and tomato cultivators who were being exploited as they were not getting a genuine return of their produce. While highlighting the cause of unemployed youths, she dwelt upon the promise to create a special fund of Rs 650 crore to help youths to set up their startups with zero percent interest rate.

Rajiv Shukla, in charge Himachal polls along with three secretaries of AICC, has been coordinating with high command and has left no stone unturned to bring factional leaders together to oust BJP from Himachal. Shukla is clear in his mind that people have made up their mind to effect change in the state and Priyankaji will do everything to implement the promises being made in Congress manifesto. Observers opine that trio comprising the state leaders like Pratibha Singh , President Himachal state Congress, and wife of late Virbhadra Singh ,Mukesh Agnihotri, CLP leader in Vidhan Sabha and Sukhvinder Singh ‘Sukhu”, campaign committee chief have been working on tandem which prove fruitful to the party.

Chhattisgarh chief minister, Bhupesh Baghel gave practical evidence of implementation of OPS in his state hence none should believe BJP which has been misguiding the employees in Himachal about the inability of Congress to convert it into reality. He said if employees stood by the Congress to oust BJP then OPS will be implemented which has been promised by our high command also.

On the analogy of BJP leaders like J.P Nadda, Jai Ram Thakur and Anurag Thakur who heaped praise on Narendra Modi, prime minister for his historical achievements during recent rallies at Una, Chamba etc., now it was turn of Congress leaders including Pratibha Singh, Mukesh Agnihotri and Sukhvinder Singh ‘Sukhu’ to shower praise on Gandhi family, thereby indulging in narration of sacrifices made by Gandhi family for the country and people of Himachal.

Analysts opine that amidst the divided Congress, the woes of BJP are significant hence both factors will play crucial role in the rationality of electorates who will exercise their franchise on Nov 12. As per indications, entire strategy and management will be handled by Priyanka which may prove beneficial to the party as it currently lacks the high stature of the leader like six time chief minister, late Virbhadra Singh.

 

( K S TOMAR National Columnist and Political Analyst)

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