July 4, 2022 1:06:13 pm
Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat had the task of leading the Congress into the Assembly elections this year. He lost from the Lalkuan constituency while the party’s tally slumped to 19 seats. In a wide-ranging interview, Rawat talks to The Indian Express about his party’s heavy loss, his future and that of the party, and the BJP government’s performance.
The Pushkar Singh Dhami administration has completed 100 days and is making several claims about the work it has done. How do you rate the government’s performance?
I feel that 100 days are not enough to judge a chief minister’s performance. We need at least one year and only in that much time, we can understand the direction a government is working in and what its intention is. News items have appeared that there has been corruption in giving jobs. The government itself has accepted that there is some corruption in recruitment in cooperative banks. The law-and-order situation is deteriorating. In the last 100 days, at least 10,000 youths have joined the list of the unemployed. Over 200 persons died during the Chardham Yatra. Where are the medical services? Roads are in the worst condition. There are frequent power cuts.
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You have been protesting against the Agnipath scheme. What is your take on it?
It is a fraud against more than 50,000 youngsters who completed their medical and physical tests and were waiting for their appointment. Now you are saying that recruitment will take place afresh through the new scheme. In states like Uttarakhand and Haryana, being in the Army is a matter of great pride.
When a 21-year-old will retire, what will he do? Where are the posts? In Uttarakhand, around 18,000 persons have lost their jobs since the BJP government came to power. Their chief minister is saying that they will give reservation to Agniveers in jobs. How will you give reservation beyond 50 per cent? There is no state where the reservation isn’t already close to 48-50 per cent.
You have praised CM Dhami on several occasions.
Yes. In fact, I am again going to appreciate him for promoting honey and bay leaf in Champawat. I have also praised him for making significant demands (seeking an extension of the GST compensation and on share on the Tehri dam) in front of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But there should be results too.
It is good that he is trying to amend the mistake he made during the division of assets with Uttar Pradesh and said 25 per cent share of Uttar Pradesh should be given to us. I appreciate this. The demand for an extension of the GST compensation is also appreciable, and I am saying that it needs to be increased for 10 years. If the CM is making the right noise, I will stand by him. However, if his voice is not heard, I will say that the ‘double engine’ they keep talking about is a non-starter.
The Supreme Court has commented on the Nupur Sharma controversy.
I appreciate the Supreme Court comment and thank it. The decision has also shown a mirror to the Central government and the BJP.
After your loss, we heard you saying that the Muslim University controversy was the main reason behind your defeat.
First, there were some faults in decisions related to me, especially on if I should contest the elections or not. If you are saying that I need to contest, you should have let me fight from the seat I wanted. When it was mandatory that I contest, my seat should have been decided when candidates for the first 50 seats were announced. I chose a constituency from the remaining 20 seats. When I chose that seat (Ramnagar), it was changed just two days later and I was asked to go to Lalkuan. When I reached Lalkuan, the candidate there did not like it. All this damaged the party’s prospects. However, I do not blame any one person for this.
Even after this, we were in a close fight. To tackle that, the Muslim University controversy was created. The entire propaganda machinery of the BJP was activated. The PM, dozens of central ministers, and several BJP CMs, all started attacking me. They started saying things like they are giving free ration, and the Congress is giving Muslim University. I even challenged BJP to show me the news article in which I announced building a Muslim University. BJP forged a paper in their social media room and spread that. The party (Congress) though we do not need to address the Muslim University allegation. This made people suspect that maybe the BJP is telling the truth.
Do you think not declaring you the CM candidate was a mistake?
I will not say that, but I believed that to strategically answer the BJP we needed to say that we are fighting under this person. They (BJP) always make the elections about (Narendra) Modi. Like if the Muslim University lie wasn’t propagated by Modi, it would not have worked. The lie was coined up by him, and the rest were just spreaders. People were watching Modi and felt that he is saying so maybe Harish Rawat is doing something wrong.
A person (Congress leader Aqeel Ahmad) gave the memorandum (demanding a Muslim University) and someone took it. It was later leaked to the media. Harish Rawat was nowhere involved. This person (Ahmad) was here promoted to party state vice-president and also sent to campaign for my daughter (Anupama Rawat) in Haridwar Rural. All this was under a planned conspiracy to establish that the said person is close to me …
The BJP planned this conspiracy against you, or did your own party do this?
I do not know that, but I have decided that I will go to court against this. I have given several chances to the BJP to prove their claim. I will now ask for justice and protection.
Do you agree that the Congress is going through a bad phase both at the state and nationally? Do you have a revival plan?
Recently, we met in Udaipur and analysed everything in detail. On six major planks, we have taken more than 100 decisions that are to be implemented or are being implemented. We will revert to the old stand of the Congress. Our core strength is inclusiveness, nationalism, and Indianism. We are the ones who created India of the 21st century.
But, our enemies have started calling us non-Indians and anti-nationals. They mislead people about our inclusiveness and called it Muslim appeasement. We thought that this misinformation will not work. But we forget that sometimes people want some spicy things too. Such spicy things were created in the RSS factory. They created a narrative and that is why a new era started on the pretext of the ‘Gujarat model’ which nobody has seen… We know that if we are on the right path and follow the right morals, that is the only answer. People changed their tastes in search of spice, but now they are getting frustrated with that too.
The internal tussle in state Congress continues. Is there a plan to tackle it?
My blessings are with the new leadership. As far as the tussle is considered, these kinds of things are there within any party. When four people will dig a field, the shovels will always collide.
Did you ever consider leaving politics?
There is a time for everything and the situation right now is not like that. If the circumstances for Congress were normal, and the party was in strength, then it would be right. Today if I leave politics, you will give just a half-page article in the newspaper. I also cannot leave Congress as it will be a crime I cannot dare commit. However, if Sonia (Gandhi) ji said ‘Harish now you are very tired’, I would leave politics immediately.
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