The Congress’s ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, a bid by the party to revive its fortunes following back-to-back electoral losses, appears to have enthused the party cadre across states. While the Yatra continues on course to cover 3,500 km over the coming months, Himachal Pradesh will be one state which will be closely watched. While the BJP is in power in the state, the Congress is hoping to cash in on the anti-incumbency against the ruling government to return to power and has initiated several mass contact initiatives to connect with the masses ahead of the assembly elections in the state scheduled for later this year. The Aam Aadmi Party, a relatively new entrant, will also be testing the waters in the state which has traditionally seen a Congress-BJP battle.
Speaking to Financial Express Digital, Congress leader Raghubir Singh Bali, son of former cabinet minister and four-time MLA Late Gurmukh Singh Bali from Nagrota Bagwan constituency in Kangra, says that the promises by the Congress can be fulfilled and jobs in multiple sectors can be created. The leader had led the three-day ‘Rozgaar Sangharsh Yatra’ in the Kangra and Chamba districts of Himachal Pradesh to protest against unemployment in the country from September 9-12.
Here are the edited excerpts from RS Bali’s exclusive interaction:
What is the significance of Rozgaar Sangharsh Yatra? Why have you undertaken it? Is it related to the Bharat Jodo Yatra?
The Yatra is important because the unemployment rate has increased since 2016. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data, the unemployment rate has increased by five times since 2016. The unemployment rate was 11.7 per cent in March 2022 in the state versus national average of 7.6 per cent unemployment rate. The need of the hour in every household is to get some employment. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has failed to keep the promises they had mentioned in their 2017 party manifesto. The BJP’s first promise was to create job opportunities where they had said that they would fill the positions for the jobs that were sanctioned. However, those positions are still vacant.
The mission of the ‘Rozgar Sangharsh Yatra’ is to unite, to walk together, and fight for the cause of the general public.
Congress has promised employment to 5 lakh youth as well as promised to set up a startup fund of Rs 680 crore for the youth. These are big poll promises to the electorate. With the BJP at Centre and Congress the main opposition, are these poll promises achievable?
Absolutely. We have a full-proof plan for the Rs 680 crores start-up fund for the youth, and this has been successfully tested in Congress-led state like Rajasthan. The fund will create jobs for thousands of youths. With the help of the fund, a person can run diversified businesses in the MSMEs and SMEs.
Further, creating five lakh jobs for youth is not a gigantic task. With the help of the fund provided by the Congress, employment opportunities in diversified fields like primary, secondary and tertiary sectors can be created.
Your father has been the MLA four times, he lost to the BJP in 2017. Is there an anti-incumbency now in Nagrota Bagwan constituency?
My father lost by a margin of just 1000 votes and that was his fifth Assembly election. In politics, one has to put their best foot forward. I believe in working and based on the response from people, I believe it will be a respectable win and it will be a win for the Congress workers.
AAP is now entering Himachal Pradesh and is promising several social welfare schemes. Do you see AAP as a contender?
There are many parties who come and go. When the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) entered Himachal Pradesh, it was already doing well in Uttar Pradesh, but in HP, it vanished into thin air. All I can say about AAP is that they have come in Himachal with the model of Punjab. Himachal is associated with Punjab, be that economically or culturally, since it is a bordering state. However, the problems and livelihoods of both states are different, and Himachal needs its own model.
Floods and their aftermath have been a major issue in Kangra. Does the Congress have any flood mitigation plans? Has the Congress done anything for that, even with it being in the Opposition?
We are in Himalayan range of Dhauladhar, floods have been the history of Himachal. Heavy rain is a man-made disaster. Best safety measures, protection walls can be put in place. However, you never know about a natural calamity. It is a multi-faceted and complex issue. All the governments in the past have worked on it, but a lot still needs to be done.