Shimla: Aiming to strengthen his bond with the hill state from where he rose from the ranks as an ABVP leader, a Cabinet minister and later creating his own space in the national politics with his low-profile and shrewd organisational skills, BJP national President Jagat Prakash Nadda (61) is on a whirlwind tour in poll-bound Himachal Pradesh for pro-incumbency votes.
Setting aside the anti-incumbency wave against the party’s government, his aides say Nadda will be holding 21 election meetings and doorstep canvassing across the state under the Vijay Sankalp Abhiyaan till November 9. He will be holding a major party’s show of strength in the state capital on November 7.
“Owing to his love and bonding with the state from where he started his political career, Nadda-ji has given his time to the party by touring across the state to ensure the return of the party in the forthcoming elections,” BJP spokesperson Karan Nanda said.
On an average Nadda will be addressing three rallies in a day, he said.
In the previous BJP government (2007-12) in Himachal Pradesh, Nadda resigned as Forest Minister in 2010 when he was picked by the then BJP chief Nitin Gadkari to join his new team. He was then made the party’s national General Secretary.
Nadda started his political rally on October 30 from mountainous Kaza in Lahaul-Spiti district. Later, he addressed two rallies in Manali and Kullu towns.
Building his campaign with the slogan ‘rivaj badlega’ (electoral traditions will change) as the party’s governments have repeated in the recent Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana polls, Nadda in his first three rallies drove his point home by saying, “The BJP does what it says.”
“Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-ji, once again a double-engine BJP government is set to be formed in the state with a huge majority,” donning traditional woollen cap Nadda said in Kaza.
This time, the saffron party, with anti-incumbency weighing heavy on its governance amidst dropping of 11 sitting MLAs and many party leaders in the fray as Independents, seems to be banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma, instead of flashing its own achievement card.
At Kaza, Nadda didn’t miss an opportunity to remind the people that the Prime Minister has replaced anti-incumbency with pro-incumbency in Indian politics by giving good governance. This time the people of Himachal would script history by electing the BJP government again.
Party’s top leaders comprising Prime Minister Modi, union ministers Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will address multiple rallies in the state.
This small hill state has not seen any incumbent party returning to power since 1985. Since then both arch-rivals — the Congress and the BJP — ruled the state alternatively in eight assembly terms.
Taking a jibe at the Congress, the BJP President reminded the people that it was the Congress that snatched the special category status from Himachal while Modi restored it.
Nadda was paying tributes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the man who united India, on his birth anniversary at a function in Kullu town on Monday.
A day before launching Vijay Sankalp Abhiyaan, Nadda, accompanying Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, met local people on the Mall Road in Shimla.
Remembering his early political years spent at Himachal Tourism’s Ashiana Restaurant on the Ridge with his friends, Nadda did not miss an opportunity to sip a cup of coffee.
The BJP leader played a crucial role in bringing former MP and state unit chief Maheshwar Singh, who announced his candidature as an Independent from Kullu Sadar, into the party fold by withdrawing his candidature.
But Maheshwar Singh’s son Hiteshwar Singh is contesting as an Independent from Banjar.
Earlier this month, Nadda’s ambitious project of commissioning AIIMS Bilaspur, a premier hospital, in his political battleground, whose foundation stone was laid exactly five years ago, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 5 in Bilaspur town just days ahead of the polls announcement.
Former Union health minister Nadda at the inauguration of AIIMS-Bilaspur said, “PM Modi has given voice to the Himachalis. It is only PM Modi who gave political power to the citizens of the state. We will always remember this. There was no Cabinet minister from the state earlier but you gave respect to us and the way you have given a person like me the position of president and the political strength to the people of Himachal, for this I bow down and extend my heartfelt greetings and welcome him.”
Party leaders told IANS that Nadda played a crucial role in bringing Congress veteran Harsh Mahajan, who represented the Chamba assembly by thrice consecutive victories in 1993, 1998 and 2003, into the party.
Likewise, two Congress sitting legislators — Lakhwinder Rana and Pawan Kajal — joined the saffron party in the run-up to the polls. Both are now party’s candidates from their respective seats.
In the 2019 parliamentary elections too, Nadda played an important role in his home state and helped the party retain all the four seats.
His political career in the state began by winning the maiden Assembly election from Bilaspur (Sadar) in 1993. In 1998, he again won from the seat and became the state Health Minister.
He lost the Assembly election in 2003, but again won in 2007 and was appointed the Forest Minister.
As the Forest Minister, Nadda was the brain behind opening forest police stations to check wildlife crimes, launching community-driven plantation drives, setting up forest ponds and the massive plantation of deodars to boost the depleting green cover of the “Queen of Hills”, as Shimla was fondly called by the Britishers.
A close confidant of Modi, Nadda was elevated as the BJP chief after Amit Shah was inducted into the Cabinet as the Home Minister.
Born on December 2, 1960, Nadda did his graduation from Patna and holds a postgraduate degree in political science and Bachelor of Legislative Law (LL.B) from Himachal Pradesh University in Shimla.
His wife Mallika Nadda, who was previously teaching history at the Himachal Pradesh University, was an ABVP activist too, and its national general secretary from 1988 to 1999.
His father N.L. Nadda, who was a Vice-Chancellor of the Ranchi University, resides in Bilaspur town.
Polling in Himachal Pradesh will take place on November 12, and the counting of votes will be held on December 8.
A seasoned journalist with over two decades of experience, Vishal writes on a wide range of subjects which include biodiversity, climate change and links between environment & development. He also covers politics and other developments in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. He lives in Chandigarh & Shimla.