A CBI enquiry was ordered against me. So there is no stopping BJP in doing whatever it wants to just to destabilise the Congress, says Rawat.
Harish Rawat, chief minister of Uttarakhand, alleges that the BJP is hellbent on destroying him. In an interview to Ashhar Khan, Mr Rawat says that Congress rebels who have joined the BJP will be thrown out of the party after the elections.
There is tremendous infighting within the Congress in your state. Do you think this is going to cost you the upcoming elections?
No, on the contrary, it will adversely affect the BJP because they have sacrificed all political values for coming back to power. Initially, it started with massive defections in our party last year in March. It lured Congress MLAs away. The way BJP is carrying out politics is a matter of grave concern. Then they imposed President’s Rule that hampered our development. They hijacked our budget for no reason even against the judgment of the high court. A CBI enquiry was ordered against me. So there is no stopping BJP in doing whatever it wants to just to destabilise the Congress.
How do you explain your MLAs and partymen leaving the Congress in Uttarakhand?
Well, there is a saying in Hindi: “Kuch to majbooriyan rahi hongi yun hi koi bewafa nahi hota (There would have been some urgency as nobody is disloyal just like that)”.
I have always maintained that history remembers warriors and not deserters. They have deserted the party that gave them everything; name and fame. After the elections, just wait for six months and they will be thrown out of the BJP. But having said that, you should see the kind of pressure and allurements the BJP is using against Congress leaders to leave the party. There are rumours that they have pressured one of our ministers to quit the Congress as Centre had set Enforcement Directorate and the CBI after him. This is the level we have come to now.
You are giving reasons for MLAs leaving you but you do not get along with the state Congress chief Kishore Upadhyay since the Rajya Sabha nominations in June 2016.
Initially, there were some problems between us, but that’s water under the bridge now. Kishoreji is doing his job and as chief minister I am doing my job; both of us are working to strengthen the Congress. I have no complaints or grudges against him as he is doing an excellent job as PCC president. I have all the praise for him and nothing else. If some grievance was ever raised, I seriously took up the matter and resolved it.
There are 14 leaders who have left the Congress in Uttarakhand. Won’t they hamper your prospects?
I don’t think it will affect us at all. The general feeling in Uttarakhand is the excesses that have been committed by the Central government. People in the state are wondering why the Central government is after Harish Rawat’s blood. The BJP-led Central government tried to destroy me in March last year. Why the Centre wants to ruin me? From a Congress-mukt Bharat they are putting all pressure to have a Harish-mukt Uttarakhand. People in the state are not going to accept this. After all, I am a small man and a part of their lives.
Your critics say that from the Indian National Congress the party has become Harish Congress in Uttarakhand?
Only those who do not know the Congress can say that. It is true that I worked for the Congress in 1977, 1978 when everybody was leaving the party. As youth Congress president, I galvanised people behind Indira Gandhiji and Sanjay Gandhiji. In 1991, when everybody started deserting Congress in Uttarakhand due to the statehood movement, I was there. From 1992 to 1998, there was this wholesale exodus from Congress while I held the flag high of the Congress. Now when again the party is under pressure, I am fighting to bring back Congress in Uttarakhand and I am confident I will do it.
You are accused of promoting your family and kin in Uttarakhand at the cost of a Congress worker?
My children have been working very hard in the state like every other Congress worker; they also have aspirations. But when the party decided that only one ticket per family will be allowed, I bowed my head with folded hands. I am a humble and loyal soldier of the party. Whatever the party tells me to do I will do. The party is my family. I have been a part of it since the 1970s.
Congress leaders who left have been given tickets by the BJP, is it the BJP’s way of getting back at you?
I am a small fry. I really don’t know why the Centre is after me. They tried to destroy my government by “Mogambo” (reference to Amit Shah) and Sharp shooter (reference to Kailash Vijayvargiya). I was saved by the grace of Baba Kedarnath, Baba Badrinath and all the saints of this “Dev Bhoomi”.
Barely 10 days ago the BJP said that it will not promote dynastic politics and Modiji was also advising party members against “parivar vaad”. Now just look at the list released by the BJP. But just to get rid of me the BJP has ignored the advice of their Prime Minister. It was surprising that the BJP gave two tickets to someone within four hours of joining the party.
How do you see the BJPs list of candidates?
People are now saying that the BJP has become the B Team of Congress in the state. All they can give to Uttarakhand is corruption, conspiracy and scams. They have joined hands with malafide intentions and the bond won’t last long. I have been saying this for a long time that the BJP has no plan or development agenda for the state. They are only banking on Congress rebels who they believe are their trump cards. After all, one-fourth names in the BJP list feature Congress rebels. Strange... well, the BJP has taken over the burden that the Congress was carrying.
Is the Congress prepared?
Of course, just look at the track record of our government. We have catered to the needs of each and every individual of the state. We are amongst the top three states in the country that provide uninterrupted power supply. Our tariffs are the lowest.
If you are so confident then why get in Prashant Kishor as a strategist?
He will act as a “chawanprash”, who will manage the campaign for us. The party always needs people with ideas and new thought process.