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Saturday, Sep 21, 2019

What are the challenges before Jai Ram Thakur as Himachal’s new chief minister

Jai Ram Thakur was named the BJP legislature party leader in Himachal Pradesh on Sunday --- which effectively makes him the state’s next chief minister.

india Updated: Dec 24, 2017 21:05 IST
Saurabh Chauhan
Saurabh Chauhan
Shimla, Hindustan Times
BJP supporters celebrate with Jai Ram Thakur after he was named the Himachal Pradesh CM pick on Sunday.
BJP supporters celebrate with Jai Ram Thakur after he was named the Himachal Pradesh CM pick on Sunday. (Deepak Sansta/HT Photo)

Several challenges stare at 52-year-old Jai Ram Thakur, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) pick for the chief minister’s post in Himachal Pradesh after the party’s victory in the assembly elections.

Here are some of them

BALANCING ACT: Thakur’s primary responsibility will be to keep the BJP’s flock of 44 new legislators together in a state where factionalism could bother the party after its pre-poll candidate for the chief minister’s post, 73-year-old Prem Kumar Dhumal, lost the election. Several of Dhumal’s loyalists lost too, but the two-time chief minister still commands influence.

Thakur wil have to strike a balance between organisation and government, especially strong caste and regional affiliations when he picks his ministers. With the Centre’s backing, he could run the government smoothly and ensure a good show for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in the state.

CREATING JOBS: Himachal reels from little job opportunities but the new chief minister could turn the bleak scenario around by offering self-employment options for the youth. The government’s statistical department says there are more than 300,000 unemployed people in the state, while employment exchange data put it at around a million.

FUNDS CRUNCH: Thakur’s biggest challenge will be to stem a financial crisis in the state, which has a debt burden of over Rs 45,000 crore and its per capita debt is Rs 55,000. The Centre has been giving Rs 8,000 crore a year as revenue deficit grant to bail out the state, but this relief is just a stopgap solution. Successive state governments have failed to mobilise resources and tax collection went down after the good and services tax (GST) was implemented this July.

ECONOMY REBOOT: For the current financial year, the agriculture-dependent state’s growth rate is 6.8%. But contributions from the farm sector into the economy have shrunk and the state hasn’t registered any significant growth in industries. Tourism, which also sustains the economy, has been stagnant too. Given the scenario, Thakur may have to take unpopular and tough decisions such as overhauling the taxation system and excise policy to boost finances.

HEALTH SECTOR: Himachal has built hospitals and put more beds for patients over the past five years, but vacant posts of doctors and other medical staff have crippled services. An AIIMS was built in Bilaspur and the chief minister will have to ensure it is up and running on his watch. Besides, he will have to strengthen healthcare services in rural areas.

QUALITY EDUCATION: Himachal has more than 2,000 government as well as private educational institutions. But poor results besiege most schools and teachers are seldom held responsible. During the previous BJP rule, more than a dozen private universities were built in the state. But quality education is still a dream for many students in the state.

LAW AND ORDER: The BJP’s spoke about the state’s deteriorating law and order during its poll campaign, giving examples of the gang rape and murder of a schoolgirl in Kotkhai, and the killing of forest guard Hoshiyar Singh in Mandi. The two cases dented the state police image. Thakur will have to restore people’s faith in police and make law and order a priority for his government.

Also read: Jai Ram Thakur: The rise and rise of Himachal Pradesh’s new CM-elect in BJP

First Published: Dec 24, 2017 19:49 IST