Himachal BJP chief Suresh Kashyap interview: ‘Leadership has conveyed we will fight polls under Jai Ram Thakur… It will be beneficial for us’

Himachal BJP chief Suresh Kashyap interview: ‘Leadership has conveyed we will fight polls under Jai Ram Thakur… It will be beneficial for us’

With a rally on September 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to kickstart the campaign for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls, scheduled for November this year. The ruling BJP is hoping to become the first party in the state in decades to win successive elections, and has launched a ‘Mission Repeat’. Suresh Kashyap, the state president of the BJP, talks to The Indian Express about the campaign, defections of senior leaders to the Congress, the AAP, and the party’s chief ministerial candidate. Excerpts:

With elections around the corner, what preparations are being made for the campaign?

We are very strong organisationally. Meetings and conferences of several morchas (wings) are being held across the state. Training and workshops are taking place at the village level in order to ensure that the party message is conveyed effectively among the public. Soon, there will be a huge youth morcha rally, which will be graced by the honourable PM. We have planned functions of SC units and the women’s morcha. On all levels of the working committees, the signal is clear: we are ready for elections. The units are working in tandem. We are confident of victory.

What are the key policies of the present regime that will have an impact on the elections?

For us, it is of crucial importance that policies of both the Central and the state government have worked on the ground. On an average, there are 25,000 to 30,000 beneficiaries in each constituency, totalling nearly 25 lakh across the state. From electricity to gas connections, several schemes have been implemented. There is a positive response from all sections. Himachal was the first state to have administered the first and second doses (of Covid-19 vaccines).

The party’s central idea of governance has been to ensure that development reaches all corners. Whether it is the remote parts of Lahaul Spiti or Shimla, the capital, the party’s work is visible on the ground.

In the last two months, there have been defections to the Congress, including the former BJP head. Are there internal party problems?

It is possible that the persons who left had certain personal ambitions that did not fit with the party’s line of thinking. For this reason, they sought support from a different party. The fact is that these are personal decisions and do not reflect on the party. We are solid in our foundation and there are no organisational issues in the state. On the other hand, we will see a trend of Congress party members leaving to join the BJP.

With new-found confidence after the Punjab elections, AAP is looking to enter Himachal politics. How much of a threat is AAP for the BJP?

The Aam Aadmi Party will not be able to influence or swing elections. In some parts of Himachal, especially lower Himachal, the party has some impact, but in terms of elections overall, the party has no chance of winning. There is no direct rivalry since AAP does not have a dedicated political structure in place. The issues in the bordering state (Punjab) will not have an impact here.

The Congress has begun deliberations on ticket distribution and is likely to release a list soon. What will be the considerations for the BJP while deciding on candidates this time?

We are going to look at many things. No decision will be taken in haste. Proper thought and deliberation will be given to the process. There will be a focus on fresh faces and supporting youth leaders as we have a huge cadre. Once we receive feedback from constituencies, we will be closer to deciding.

Will the BJP declare a CM face during the campaign?

It has been conveyed by the leadership that we will be fighting elections under the leadership of Jai Ram Thakur since he is the leader of the house. It will be beneficial for the party. Senior party members have shown faith in him and he is a favourable candidate post the victory.