On the last day of campaign for the Himachal Pradesh assembly elections, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on Thursday launched a scathing attack on the Congress, saying it was raking up the old pension scheme issue just for politics and had ”no moral right” to do so.
If the Congress realised that adopting the new pension scheme was a mistake, why did it not revert to the old scheme when the party was in power between 2012 and 2017, he asked.
The Congress, seeking to wrest power from the BJP in the hill state, has promised to restore the old pension scheme (OPS).
Addressing a press conference here on the last day of campaign for the November 12 polls, Thakur said the state government-formed committee would explore the issue threadbare along with all options available.
Attacking the Congress, which sought to make it a major poll issue, the chief minister said the opposition party ”has no moral right on this as the leadership of that party signed MoU in the entire country and ended OPS and implemented NPS”.
”They are raking up the issue only on political considerations. Congress should apologise. If they made a mistake, they had time to make amends when Virbhadra Singh government was formed in 2012. At that time they could have restored OPS,” said Thakur.
After two decades they are trying to make it a poll issue, he added.
”We have always said that we should not immediately jump to conclusions, that is not appropriate… What can be the way forward (on OPS issue), has Congress studied its implication?” he said.
With the Congress maintaining that its governments have implemented OPS in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, Thakur took a swipe at the party.
Referring to an event attended by him, the prime minister and the chief ministers of Rajasthan and Assam, Thakur said when they were ”having lunch together at one table, (Rajasthan CM) Ashok Gehlot told the prime minister with folded hands that ‘we have to announce OPS but it cannot be possible without your blessings and cooperation’.” He asked whether the Rajasthan government has implemented OPS nine months after the announcement and added a situation of chaos prevails there on this issue.
In Punjab too, the previous Congress government had said they would implement OPS, he said.
With many Himachal Pradesh government employees recently raising the demand for restoring OPS, Thakur said, ”I want to tell employees that we understand your sentiments”, and added they should be conscious of the fact that the Congress was trying to raise the issue ”for political considerations”.
”Congress has no future neither in the country nor in the state,” he said.
Notably, there are about 2.5 lakh government employees in the state and of them, 1.5 lakh are covered under the new pension scheme.
There have been protests earlier by employees’ associations against the new scheme in Shimla, Mandi, Kangra and Solan.
The old pension scheme, under which the entire pension amount was given by the government, was discontinued in the country from April 1, 2004.
According to the new scheme, employees contribute 10 per cent of their basic salary towards pension while the state government contributes 14 per cent.
On apple growers’ demand for increase in MSP and a 100 per cent raise in the import duty of apples, Thakur said, ”We have placed the issue of import duty before the Centre.” He also said MSP of apple had been increased more than what the Congress did during their time and that the state government was sensitive to the concerns of the growers.
Thakur said that various surveys have shown that the BJP was ahead of the Congress and would once again form the government in the state.
He said the BJP would win the polls on the basis of the performance of its government and the development it undertook.
”The ‘double-engine’ government will work together to further accelerate progress in the state,” he said, adding that the BJP’s campaign got a boost with the prime minister’s visit to the state to address poll rallies. Prime Minister Modi has an emotional connect with Himachal Pradesh and people know this well, he said, adding nearly Rs 10,500 crore worth of projects have been given by the Centre to the state through various schemes.
Polling in Himachal Pradesh will be held on Nov