Prime Minister Narendra Modi left none in doubt about his open patronage and closeness to Himachal Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur by showering praises on the CM’s one-year achievements during the ‘Janabhar’ rally organised recently in Dharamsala.
Despite the voting prefixed in parliament on triple talaq Bill on December 27, the PM spared a few hours out of his busy schedule to preside over Jai Ram government’s one-year celebrations and addressed a huge rally, which witnessed the participation of workers from every nook and corner of the state.
Modi’s speech served twin purposes. First, the PM gave a clarion call to party workers to start working hard for the big battle of 2019 elections to bring the party back to power in Delhi. Second, Modi heaped praises on the Chief Minister, which was aimed at silencing his critics within the party and Opposition leaders, who were questioning the survival of Thakur as the Chief Minister of Himachal.
In the run-up to 2019 poll, it will be an uphill task for the BJP to retain all four Lok Sabha seats from the state, which were won by it in 2013 due to the Modi wave, which might be missing this time.
The state BJP, however, has got an advantage of five-year achievements of the Centre and one-year governance of Thakur’s government, though it will be confronted by the Congress, which recently got a dose of motivation and encouragement after snatching power in three states. Congress expects to exploit the non-fulfillment of tall poll promises made by Modi in 2014 and the anti-incumbency factor.
The PM was at his best when he devoted the maximum time in his election speech on the micro details of various projects and schemes approved by the Centre to help the people of Himachal and expressed his optimism about the reciprocity of the gesture by extending the support to the BJP during the 2019 elections.
Modi’s decades old association with local people was also on display, which was evident from his concerted and strenuous attempt to directly connect with them. He regretted that he would not be in a position to have a taste of ‘Kangri Dham,’ with the participants. To give reflection of genuine knowledge of Himachali dishes, Modi spelt out the names of dishes, which used to be his favourite, when he was the in-charge of the BJP affairs for several years.
The PM intentionally tried to establish an emotional chord with rallyists, when he narrated his experiences of working with young leaders and grassroots workers. Modi remembered his sojourn in the interior and inaccessible areas, where he used to spend his nights in ‘home stays’ run by party workers. He shared with the crowd that the concept of ‘home stays’ has become very popular in attracting foreign as well as domestic tourists. Participants must have felt happy, when Modi gave an interesting interpretation of an old saying — ‘Pahad ka paani aur pahad ki jawani kisi aur ke naam’. He said this connotation has changed in the 21st Century and now, it gives fruitful and positive meaning, which says — ‘Pahad ka paani aur pahad ki jawani ab apne logon ke naam’. Now, Himachalis are utilising both God-gifted virtues for the benefit of their own people.
While sending a clear signal to the detractors of Jai Ram Thakur in the BJP, the PM addressed the CM as a ‘Priya Mitra’ and praised his leadership qualities. The PM was also impressed with an exhibition and a short-film shown by the government, which pertained to the one-year achievements of the Jai Ram government.
Another attempt to identify himself with the traditions of Himachal was made by him when he narrated an incident related to his foreign trip to Israel. He said he always keeps a Himachali cap with him and wears it whenever required. Modi explained that in view of Israeli tradition, at one point, it was mandatory to cover the head like we do in gurdwaras, mosques etc. but he did not have the requisite cloth with him. He said the Himachali topi came to his rescue then. But he was overwhelmed over the emotional response of hundreds of Himachalis, who sent him messages and wrote letters thereby expressing their gratitude for wearing their cap even in a foreign country.
On the contrary, Congress leaders were not impressed with Modi’s speech and regretted that he did not announce any special industrial package to people.
The CM later lambasted the Congress leaders and accused them of closing their eyes to appreciate a liberal financial assistance of over Rs 9,000 crore, which had been given by the PM in the last one year.
Finally, Modi intentionally gave credit for the pace of industrialisation to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who considered Himachal as his second home.
Political observers opine that Modi’s visit will energise the BJP cadres and leaders, who are slightly shaken after the unexpected victory of the Congress in three states. Observers also feel that the PM has set an agenda for the 2019 elections, hence he devoted maximum time to the achievements of Centre and state governments besides establishing an emotional connect with the people.
(Writer is senior4 journalist. Views are personal)