Run to the hills, shoot at Virbhadra: BJP heavyweights' strategy for Himachal
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Himachal Pradesh is looking to recreate its successful formula from the recent Uttarakhand Assembly polls. It has started bombarding Himachal with visits from high-profile national leaders.
Each leader follows pretty much the same shoot-and-scoot strategy – fly in for a short visit, launch frontal attacks on the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government, and then depart swiftly.
This is being coupled with sops and new schemes for the hill state.
The trend is only expected to grow further, and will culminate with a carpet bombing by the BJP's central leadership as the campaign reaches its crescendo.
LPG at last
It was just a couple of days ago that Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana in Himachal, which is supposed to benefit around three lakh families in the state living below the poverty line. Pradhan also announced the opening of two LPG bottling plants and 50 LPG distribution centres in the state.
A hassle-free LPG distribution service is something that the people of Himachal have been craving for years.
Talking about the Ujjwala scheme, the minister claimed that it is aimed at providing five crore LPG connections in the name of women from BPL households across the country, and 2.25 crore new beneficiaries have been covered under the scheme in the first year of its commissioning. He further claimed that every household in Himachal would have LPG connections in next one or two years.
Nadda's health sops
Just a week ago, Union Health Minister and senior Himachal BJP leader JP Nadda had announced a Rs 320 crore satellite centre of Chandigarh's Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) in Una. He also announced a Universal Health Services scheme that would soon be launched in 100 districts of the country on a pilot basis, in which compulsory health check-up for blood pressure and blood sugar, cancer of cervix, ovaries and breast would be conducted free of cost.
Nadda said the PGIMER satellite centre would be completed in 30 months, and would be run by a team of specialists and other medical professionals. He made these announcements in Una.
Less than a week later, he was back in Shimla, demanding Virbhadra's resignation on moral grounds while accusing him of 'misusing' the official machinery to save his chair.
“The arrest of an officer of the industries department, who was caught red-handed by the CBI accepting a bribe, has blemished the image of the state. The fact that the office of the Chief Minister has also come under the scanner is a serious matter affecting the functioning of the government,” he said.
This is a constant refrain of BJP leaders – corruption and inefficiency have gripped the government to such an extent that it is incapable of utilising the funds allocated by the Centre under various schemes. They have accused the Virbhadra government of failing to even submit the Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) of 61 National Highways passing through the state.
“People are deprived of the benefits of various projects as Central government grants have not been utilised in an optimum manner,” Nadda said.
Just a few days before Nadda's visit, it was Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had also launched a frontal attack on the Virbhadra government, while addressing booth level workers of all the Assembly segments of Hamirpur district, which has been the citadel of the BJP for the last almost three decades.
Calling the incumbent government one of the weakest in the state since it came into being, Rajnath expressed confidence that the people of Himachal would throw it out of power in the coming elections.
The Home Minister's visit to Hamirpur was a tactful move by the BJP, as Hamirpur and its adjoining districts of Bilaspur, Kangra and Mandi are home to a large number of serving and ex-military and paramilitary personnel. He played up the BJP's nationalism narrative to the hilt, talking about terrorism and the BJP's resolve to finish it off. He claimed that terrorism has been on the wane in all parts of the country, and forces are on alert round the clock to wipe out militancy.
Breaking the five-year cycle
Meanwhile, the party's new in-charge for Himachal Pradesh, Mangal Pandey, has also been touring the state trying to sell the programmes of the Narendra Modi-led Central government, claiming that the BJP would be contesting the forthcoming polls on the plank of development.
“More important than getting majority is having a government that lasts for 15 years and break the five-year cycle,” Pandey reportedly said after taking over the charge of Himachal.
BJP leaders are talking in terms of making the state 'Congress-mukt' and 'BJP-yukt'.
Building the hype
The BJP's strategy is to simultaneously send heavyweight leaders to both upper and lower Himachal and trying to strike a balance and capture the imagination of the voters of both these regions.
This process had started with PM Modi holding a roadshow and addressing a rally at the Ridge in Shimla in April, after he had launched the Udaan scheme, which envisages providing cheap air travel to people from smaller towns and cities. This had been followed by BJP national president Amit Shah's visit to the all-important Kangra region.
In its typical mode of functioning, the BJP has been trying to hype the smallest of elections, to send home the message that there is a public mood in its favour. It succeeded in making the Bhoranj Assembly by-poll a high-profile contest, and retained the seat. It is trying to do the same in the case of Shimla Municipal Corporation polls, scheduled to be held on 16 June. Its entire state leadership is working overtime to ensure that it gets a majority in these polls for the first time.
Even Union ministers like Nadda have been visiting Shimla to give a push to the party campaign for these polls.
The strategy is to set the ball rolling for the Assembly poll campaign with hype, in the name of Modi.