We shouldn’t be punished for being a peaceful, backward state: Virbhadra Singh
CM Virbhadra Singh worries about Himachal Pradesh losing its special category status in this interview to Ashwani Sharma.
As a chief minister heading a Congress government, how are your relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi?
I feel I am very fortunate to be serving a sixth term. I have worked with almost all prime ministers. I enjoyed excellent relations with Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji. Prime Minister Modi too is a mature politician. My relations with him are extremely cordial. I see no problems working with him.
Has the change of regime at the Centre affected the state and your government? Do you foresee any problem?
Not politically. I am heading a stable, democratically elected government. The government will last its term.
You presented your 18th budget a few days ago, a record. How much does that mean to you?
It means a lot. If God keeps me going, I will break my own record, with two more budgets until the 2017 polls. Secondly, this budget was very challenging .It has been prepared under the shadow of uncertainty around Himachal’s special category status. J&K and the northeastern states will continue to enjoy special treatment but other hilly, backward, special-category states such as Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are not sure what will happen. NITI Aayog and the Government of India will not fund Himachal’s state plan. As a result, the state will lose more than Rs 3,000 crore in 2015-16 in the form of central assistance, special central assistance and special plan assistance. The total loss in five years will be Rs 15,000 to 20,000 crore .Further, the Government of India has proposed a huge cut in the central share of various centrally sponsored schemes being transferred to the states.
Have your raised this with the prime minister or finance minister?
Yes, I have. I am fighting it aggressively. I wish it doesn’t happen and status quo is maintained. I am not seeking any special favour. Himachal’s economy is growing and we will soon be self-reliant. But whatever we were getting should not be taken away. We should not be punished for being a peaceful, backward hill state.
You once said the BJP in the state was failing to play a constructive opposition. Have you now made an effort to win its support while negotiating with the Centre?
This assembly session, I have seen a change in the opposition’s behaviour. Perhaps there has been a rethink. I have urged the opposition to support the government. Let’s jointly take up the matter with the prime minister, I have proposed to Leader of the Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal. It’s not as if only the Congress will remain in power to face this challenge. Dhumal has assured support.
You spent two years filing cases against Dhumal and his son Anurag Thakur. Do you accept the frequent allegation that you indulge in vendetta politics?
I have no personal enmity against Dhumal. It was not my personal agenda. In fact, it was he who filed many false cases against me during his two regimes. I faced trial and got acquitted. Before I returned to power, the Congress prepared a chargesheet against the BJP government, which was submitted to the President. On becoming CM, I only fulfilled my duty in getting the charges probed. The government did not lose its focus on development .There is no vendetta politics.
Do you fear any trouble with Governor Kalyan Singh?
Mr Kalyan Singh is a very senior politician and has been UP chief minister himself. I have great respect for him. The Centre has to appoint a new governor, who has to function within the constitutional framework. An elected government is in place. Why should I have any fear?
Source:: Indian Express