Harish Rawat is known as the “public’s CM” in Uttarakhand because of his frequent interaction with masses.
At his press conference after President’s Rule was imposed in the state on Sunday, the CM said that he will go amongst the people to get justice and to expose the BJP’s role in dislodging his government.
After replacing Vijay Bahuguna as chief minister in February 2014, Rawat has been credited with several initiatives while his opponents within the party say they have been ignored by him.
As CM he persisted with the Chardham Yatra of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri in 2014 even though the BJP and some senior leaders within the Congress had opposed him. They had argued that the Chardham Yatra was unsafe because a great deal of restoration work remained to be done on the Kedarnath route that had been devastated during the floods of June, 2013.
Bahuguna had to resign due to criticism of his handling of the rehabilitation work after the floods.
In the last two years, the Rawat government has developed 60 helipads at different hilly areas of the state including on the Chardham route so that helicopters can land for rescue operations if the need arises. “Rawat’s tenure cannot be compared with the regime of veteran party leader and ex-CM ND Tiwari but Rawat’s 25-month tenure has been more public oriented than governments led by Vijay Bahuguna and BJP leaders in the past,” said an officer in the state bureaucracy.
On Rawat’s directives, for instance, the state’s bureaucrats, including senior IAS officers, had to stay the night in villages earlier this year, to understand the villagers’ problems. Officials had to walk several kilometres to reach remote villages.
Last year, Rawat had introduced a practice of randomly talking to the public over the phone and listening to their grievances and feedback about the functioning of local administrative officials.
Astute politician, Rawat had visited the Reserve Police Line thrice to take stock of the condition of police horse Shaktiman which had lost its leg after BJP MLA Gansh Joshi allegedly hit it during an agitation on March 14.
“Because of his popularity, the BJP at a meeting in Rudrapur last year had passed a resolution that their party could not come back to power in the state while Harish Rawat was CM,” said a Congress leader.
However, while party leaders close to Rawat said that he was approachable to party workers, another section of party leaders said that Rawat’s style of functioning had increased groupism in the state organization. “While he had quite a few ministers in his cabinet, he preferred to listen to a select few in taking policy decisions. He often declined to approve the proposals of several ministers,” said a ex-minister of Rawat government.
Among the rebel nine MLAs, whose defection led to the crisis for the Rawat government, several had alleged that Rawat did not listen to their concerns and often rejected proposals related to their departments. Ex-CM Vijay Bahuguna had to meet Congress’s top leadership in Delhi frequently to resolve his issues in the state instead of discussing these directly with Rawat, despite living next door to him.