From a bed at AIIMS in Delhi, Harish Rawat has been running not only his government in Uttarakhand but also his campaign for the Dharchula byelection in the upper Himalayas.
The Uttarakhand chief minister has been under treatment for a month since June 13, having suffered neck injury in an emergency landing by his helicopter. He remains in constant touch with his officials and also uses his cell-phone to address election meetings.
During the weekend, he held a meeting in his hospital room with chief secretary Subhash Kumar, additional chief secretary Rakesh Sharma and DGP B S Sidhu and reviewed the annual plan and law and order in the state, besides progress in rehabilitation and reconstruction work following last year’s flash floods. At home, senior minister Indira Hridyesh sits regularly in the Chief Minister’s Office and takes care of routine matters.
Local newspapers Saturday carried an advertisement in which Rawat makes an emotional appeal to voters in the three assembly seats where byelections are scheduled on July 21. “I am not in position to seek your votes in front of you. I am deeply pained… Please forgive me for my helplessness,” Rawat says in the appeal. He tells the people his health is improving and he is fit enough to discharge his duties.
“Although the CM is fit to discharge his duties, doctors have asked him to rest for at least six weeks. This is common; it takes at least six weeks for a person to recover from any bone injury,” Rawat’s media in-charge Surendra Agrawal told The Indian Express.
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“Rawat’s absence from Dharchula will not affect his prospects,” Uttarakhand Congress president Kishore Upadhyay said. “Remember, then chief minister N D Tiwari had won the byelection from Ramnagar without a campaign in 2002.”
Rawat’s wife Renuka is looking after his campaign on the ground. Former PCC president Yashpal Arya, the party’s Dalit face, has been camping in Dharchula. Dhami, who vacated the seat, too is campaigning.
Dharchula is a segment of Almora parliamentary constituency, which Rawat had represented thrice before delimitation. It has a large presence of Thakurs, the caste to which Rawat belongs, and is in Kumayun region from where Rawat hails.
The BJP has fielded B D Joshi, a former Congress leader and a former block pramukh of Dharchula.