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Himachal Pradesh tweaks Gujarat development model ahead of assembly polls

PM Narendra Modi inaugurates and lays the foundation stone of multiple projects.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)  is back in power in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand bucking opposition’s  much hyped ‘anti-incumbency’ slogans.

Many believe that the Gujarat model – which Prime Minister Narendra Modi set-out for most BJP –ruled states ,is actually at work ,both for the states and centre – negating the ‘anti-incumbency’ factor.

With the exception of Punjab, where a combination altogether different forces were at work, the has  Gujarat model and its mutations, combined with better poll management  seem to have yielded handsome dividends in the recent assembly polls.

Buoyed by its serial successes, the BJP faces yet another test in two states. Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat are expected to go to the polls by the end of the year .

Gujarat has seen a change of Chief minister with Bhupendra Bhai Patel replacing Vijay Rupani. But in   Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur ,57 –a five-time MLA ,is firmly in the saddle and all set to lead the party to the polls .

All rumours about leadership change in the state after BJP lost  four byelections including Mandi Parliamentary seat to Congress's Pratibha Singh–wife of former CM Virbhadra Singh in November 2021 ,have fallen flat . Nevertheless, taking no chances, the BJP is in a fine-tuning mode, plugging gaps rather than changing the face of the government .Thakur remains the most dependable face for the party as he neither faced  any  rebellion (unlike Uttarakhand and Gujarat), nor any crisis in his governance . There is not a single corruption charge against him. Yet ,he has been criticised for his loose grip on the bureaucracy, a poor report card of his ministers, poor choice of officers  in his core team and for arbitrarily diverting development of large chunks of  funds and schemes  to his assembly constituency –Seraj (Mandi) .

Thakur , who presents a generational change in the party in Himachal Pradesh , stood out for his performance during Covid times. Without halting development work, he ensured that the state  attained the no. 1 position in vaccination –an achievement that earned him a pat on the back from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Modi is expected to visit Himachal Pradesh ,again in June 2022.

“I have extended invitation to Modi ji to visit Himachal Pradesh in upcoming June when Rs 1,350 crores  worth AIIMS Bilaspur will be ready for inauguration .This is one of the mega- infrastructure projects for specialised health care facility within the state reducing dependency on PGI ,Chandigarh and AIIMS Delhi for Himachalis”  Thakur told India Narrative .

The Prime Minister had laid the foundation stone for this project —a brain child of BJP national President J.P. Nadda ,who was union health minister in 2017 –ahead of state assembly polls in 2017.

“ The health sector in the state has seen a massive expansion .Who could imagine setting-up of four new medical colleges, AIIMS and satellite centre of PGI at Una, upgradation of facilities at IGMC Shimla and Dr Rajendra Prasad medical college ,Tanda ,Kangra. It’s only because of Narendra Modi and ‘double engine sarkar’ led by Jai Ram Thakur in Himachal Pradesh” Nadda said at Bilaspur ,his home town in December 2021 .

Expansion of the road network –a lifeline for the hills, National Highways ,four-lane projects and rural roads ,have witnessed massive investments during the past five years .

“ Himachal Pradesh has 39,000 km long motorable roads ,out of which 32,000 km are metalled .Of total 3,615 panchayats ,3,556 are connected with roads. Out of 59 left over panchayats, 20 will be connected by road by 2022-23 to provide facilities to 20 villages and 22 hamlets ,which had no roads in the past 51 years of the state formation, ” says Thakur, who also holds portfolios of Public Works Department and finance.

The state has proposed a budget of Rs 552 in the next year’s budget for rural roads alone.

 The opposition Congress, however, claims that the condition of the roads is the worst in the state .

“ The Chief Minister paints a very misleading picture on development of road infrastructure in the state. Why did BJP lose the Mandi parliamentary poll in CM’s home district ? It's because the condition of Chandigarh-Manali NH is pitiable .There has been a breakdown of vehicles every day, and road accidents .How can you promote tourism or make journeys comfortable for people if the roads are miserable? “ says leader of opposition Mukesh Agnihotri .

He also ridicules the Chief Minister’s claim of building an international green-field airport at Mandi, which will need a massive budget .The land owners in the area are up in arm opposing land acquisitions .But the Chief Minister has been talking about ‘night landing ‘ facility at proposed dream airport for past four years.

Nevertheless, some progress has been made in the expansion of the railway network –which has never caught-up attention of the centre ,despite proposals submitted for the ambitious Bhanupali-Bilaspur -Beri  railway line .

"This year, the centre has allotted Rs 1,868 cr.—highest ever allocation ,apart from Rs 335 for Nangal-Talwara and another Rs 450 cr. from connecting industrial belt of  Baddi-Barotiwala with Chandigarh (UT)” said a senior official in the state’s finance department .

In Uttarakhand , the BJP got a major advantage in the polls because of ambitious 889 km long Char-Dham four –lane project to connect Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri and ongoing Rishikesh – Karanprayag Railway Line project to build 125 km railway line.

“Himachal Pradesh is witnessing an accelerated growth of infrastructure under the BJP government at the centre and state. When the Prime Minister visits the state next time ,he may announce several new projects to transport the state into a new model of hill development. We are heading for Mission Repeat 2022  on the basis of performance vote ”  says Kashyap, who is a sitting MP from Shimla.

Also Read: After Uttarakhand and UP ,BJP planning to storm into Himachal Pradesh for a second term