The chances are very bright for the BJP this time.
Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, BJP MP and former chief minister of Uttarakhand, spoke to Ashhar Khan on his party’s prospects in the state.
What do you think are the BJP’s chances in the current Assembly elections?
I would say that the chances are very bright for the BJP this time. In fact, I am sure that we will form the government in the state, as the people are very disappointed with the way the Congress ran its government in the last five years. People of the state were happy with our work when we were in power. Also, no government in Uttarakhand has come to power twice in a row.
Do you think that a chief ministerial candidate should have been named by the BJP for Uttarakhand?
The Congress hasn’t named its chief ministerial candidate as well! Frankly, it will make not much of a difference as we are all from the same organisation. After we secure a majority, which I am sure we will, a final decision on the name of the chief minister will be taken, so what is the big deal?
There are several rebels of the BJP who are contesting as independent candidates. How will it affect its chances in the polls?
It will be wrong to say that the rebels of the BJP will not cause problems. We are working very hard to convince them to return to our fold as the organisation comes first. If the party requires some sacrifices from them, then they should stand up to the challenge if they are loyal soldiers of the party. For instance, in the Yamkeshwar constituency we got our rebel candidate to withdraw his nomination. So I will say that this is work-in-progress. As the polling day comes closer, I am confident that our former colleagues will see reason and not contest against leaders who have been given tickets by the BJP. Yes, they are causing some problems for us, but in the overall picture it will not have any impact on us.
How will the induction of Congress rebels, who have also been given tickets, impact your party?
The BJP is a robust organisation, which attracts many people. We understand that everybody has ambitions, and so it’s natural workers have been with the BJP for a very long time to expect tickets. We are meeting them and assuaging their apprehensions. After all, the BJP is a disciplined party and everybody who has worked as a karyakarta has to follow the rules.
Chief minister Harish Rawat has been using the issue of dismissal of his government as a poll plank. Do you see that this will make an impact?
The impact will be in our favour and against the Congress. It has no moral right to be in power post-March 18, 2016. In fact, the chief minister has lied about passing the budget at various levels. If it was passed on March 18, 2016, then why was a special session of the Assembly called just to pass it? This is a very serious matter, which will go against the Congress. It clearly shows that as per records the budget was not passed on March 18, which means that the government had automatically fallen. The Congress is trying to play with facts and this will cost them dearly in the polls. The citizens of Uttarakhand are very enlightened and discerning.
Congress alleges that the BJP is being run by its Delhi leadership and not by its state leadership. Is that true?
It is completely false! Everybody has a role to play in the smooth functioning of any party. The Central leadership has its own role and so does the state leadership. I am campaigning actively in the state so are other state leaders, including Khanduriji, Koshyariji. You have to understand BJP in Uttarakhand is a single unit and we are all fighting for the rights of people of the state. The Prime Minister being a national leader is leading from the front. Our national president of the party Amit Shahji is also actively campaigning in the state.
How can the BJP give a stable government in the state when in the seven years of its rule it has had five different chief ministers in the state?
This is certainly not an issue. The first government from 2000-02 was an interim one. Yes, when we returned to power in 2007 there were some changes at the top level, but this did not affect the development of Uttarakhand. When we were in power the state grew at a rapid pace. We were amongst the top states in the country. It is only after the Congress came to power that there has been a downfall in the fortunes of the state.
Local Congress leaders have accused your party of using black money in the elections. What do you have to say regarding this?
They need to prove it; mere allegations will not get the Congress anywhere. In fact, it shows their anxiety about losing the elections, so they are relying on cheap gimmicks. The people of the state will see through this. On the contrary, it is the black money of Congress leaders that is coming out in these elections. Look at their campaign — they have got specialists to strategise for them. I want to ask them from where have they got money to hire experts? People have the right to know and the Congress is answerable.
Mr Rawat has accused the Centre for hounding him and has also unleashed the CBI on him. How would you like to respond?
The chief minister should be thankful to the Prime Minister for awarding so many schemes to Uttarakhand. The state got an additional Rs 12,000 crores in the Budget. Look at the projects in the state. Uma Bhartiji launched the Namami Gange project here. Transport minister Nitin Gadkariji has announced that the Central government will make Auli a world-class tourist destination. Look at the railway allocations, which have been made. The Central government under our leader Narendra Modiji has always stood for the welfare of the state. With regard to the CBI issue, there was a CD that came out in the public domain, in which Mr Rawat was seen horse-trading. If it is doctored then why is he afraid of being investigated? Let the CBI investigate, and the truth will come out. The CM’s unease clearly tells a story.
The Congress has also accused the Centre of not releasing funds for the state and is making it a poll issue. What’s your take on this?
The Congress can make anything into a poll issue. I challenge them to give one example to prove their case. Everything is being done on time. I am a Lok Sabha MP from Haridwar I am the voice of the state in Parliament and I know that no injustice has been committed by the Centre on the state. The fact is that Mr Rawat is running the state like a private limited company, which is why there is problem in the state. If he had thought about the state things would have been very different on the ground.
Do you think demonetisation will have an impact on the upcoming elections?
We welcome this decision, as we will benefit from it. People here were not affected because we are simple people; we don’t have any black money. It was the wrongdoers who were upset and angry. Yes, people stood in long queues but they knew that it was good for the country.