With the Congress wresting power from the BJP in last year's Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls, former chief minister Jai Ram Thakur admitted on Tuesday that the old pension scheme (OPS) issue had an impact on the electoral outcome in the hill state.
Replying to a reporter's query here, Thakur said the "OPS impact" was "one of the biggest reasons" behind the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) defeat in the Himachal Pradesh polls.
"Because in terms of population proportion in the entire country, Himachal has the highest number of government employees," he said.
Thakur was addressing a press conference here in Haryana on the achievements of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre in the last nine years.
He said the previous government in Himachal Pradesh, led by him, was not opposed to the demand of the government employees on OPS, but had sought time from them to resolve the issue.
"When the employees demanded OPS, we were not opposed to it. We said we were moving ahead to resolve the issue. It was not possible for us to take a decision in isolation and leave out the other states where the BJP or other NDA constituents were in power," he said.
The Congress, in the meanwhile, said it will restore OPS in the state at the first cabinet meeting after forming the government, Thakur pointed out, adding that it "definitely had an impact".
The Congress had made the restoration of OPS a major issue in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls held in November 2022.
Thakur said a committee has been set up at the central level on the issue of OPS.
"How this OPS issue can be handled and what solution can be found are being looked at. I definitely think that some way will be found," he added.
To another question, he said the Congress came to power in Himachal Pradesh bagging just 36,000 votes more than the BJP.
"The Congress came to power with a 0.9 per cent vote difference. In the history of Himachal Pradesh, this is the lowest margin for any party that has come to power. There was a difference of only 36,000 votes between the Congress and the BJP, but they got more number of seats," he said.
Asked about the Congress government's decision to levy a water cess on hydropower projects and future projects in the hill state, a move that has been opposed by some neighbouring states including Haryana, Thakur said more than the economic aspect, the political agenda prompted the Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu government take the decision.
"The economic aspect was one part, but more than that there was a political agenda to present that they took a big initiative. It was not practical. The Centre and the neighbouring states took cognisance of it.
"It did not yield a positive results for the states that took a decision on water cess earlier. Some are in litigation. I do not see Himachal gaining much from this. However, at the same time, I do not see other states like Punjab or Haryana being impacted much either," he said.
On the five months of the Congress government in Himachal Pradesh, Thakur said, "If we talk in terms of development parameters, then there is no comparison to what the BJP did. But sometimes, there are issues due to which the poll outcome is impacted. I do not want to get into that, we live in a democratic set up and we respect that (people's mandate).
"But I would also like to add that the Congress has been in power for five months and people are already talking about the previous government's good governance, the work done and the all-round development during our time. Development has come to a standstill under them," he said.
Thakur also slammed Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his remarks made in the United States targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"He (Gandhi) can say anything anywhere, there should be no confusion on this. Sometimes, even he does not know what is he saying. But it is unfortunate when he speaks like this on foreign soil," he said.
Earlier, Thakur detailed several achievements of the Modi government.
He said India's global prestige has gone up under this government and the country has a "strong and decisive leadership" today.
"Under Modiji's leadership, the country has grown from strength to strength in every field," the BJP leader said.
Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.