“Uttarakhand should be allowed to have more seats in the assembly”

Chief minister Harish Rawat accuses the BJP of attempting to topple his government

aasha

Aasha Khosa | June 20, 2016


#President's rule   #Amit Shah   #Modi   #BJP   #Congress   #Harish Rawat   #Uttarakhand  


Harish Rawat has seen more ups and downs in two months than many see in decades. He is back in power in Uttarakhand, but facing a CBI inquiry over the alleged horse-trading sting. Ahead of his CBI quizzing on June 7, Rawat found time to answer a few questions from Aasha Khosa. Edited excerpts: 

How do you look back at the two months of political developments in Uttarakhand?
It’s now clear that the BJP was behind the toppling of my government. They tried to do it by bribing certain people in my party. It is also now a public knowledge that money had exchanged hands in this game; money was used to buy legislators. Otherwise what explains the sudden and frequent visits of a BJP general secretary, who is not even in charge of the state, to Dehradun before the episode? Mind you, that general secretary has travelled seven times to Dehradun during this period.

Why do you think the BJP was targeting your government?
The party had decided to topple all the non-BJP governments in the country and their first experiment was to be carried out in Uttarakhand. They wanted to change governments through defection. But in Uttarakhand, the judiciary stepped in to foil their plan. The BJP suffered a big setback and now it dare not repeat the same in other states. Therefore, I do not see the restoration of my government in terms of victory or failure; it’s the triumph of democracy.

Who was behind the attempted toppling of your government?
Logically both prime minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah should come clean on this. If we assume that some people in the BJP executed this diabolic plan without the consent and knowledge of the duo [Modi and Shah], then this becomes a very serious issue. It shows that the two leaders are not in command. Now let’s assume that my government was toppled at the behest of Modi and Shah, again it raises an even more serious issue. This shows that the prime minister is not pursuing healthy politics in this country.

Are you planning to go for mid-term polls to make most of the situation?
I haven’t really thought about it. But I believe, as chief minister, all decisions that I take should lead to the betterment of people’s lives. In this situation, I feel I have got an extra bonus year to carry out good work. Why should I waste it by going for mid-term elections? However, right now, I am grappling with a situation wherein the centre is yet to approve our budget [which was passed during the president’s rule]. Because of this we are not able to function properly. Besides, it [non-clearance of budget] is also keeping instability alive.

Why do you blame the BJP alone when there was unrest within your own party which led to 14 legislators supporting the opposition?
All political parties face unrest once in a while. The solution of this unrest and also of the grievances of all who are unhappy should also come from within the party. Going to meet outsiders to seek redressal of grievances is not done.

Your rivals refer to a sting done by a local TV channel to allege that you, personally, had offered money to buy some BJP MLAs. What is your version?
I feel CBI should deal with facts of the case and not go by rhetoric and conjectures. I also want everybody to see the footage of the so-called sting operation to ascertain if anyone has talked of paying money. Instead, CBI should probe how a conspiracy to topple a democratically elected government was hatched and who all were behind it. Here, in this case, the prey is being made to look like a hunter and the hunter like a prey. Truth will come out in the due course of time. I have set up a special investigation team to probe the conspiracy [to topple the government] and also set up a judicial commission.

You have launched a series of developmental plans for Uttarakhand. What is next?
The biggest achievement of my government was restoration of the Char Dham Yatra within a year of the devastating floods that had dealt a heavy blow to tourism. The per-capita income of the state rose from Rs 84,000 to Rs 1.73 lakh during my tenure. We have equaled Kerala in education parameters. For me, development is a strategy to look ahead. It’s not always about thinking what I could accomplish and what I couldn’t.

Successive governments have said that the hill state faces some unique problems. What is your view about it?
Migration of locals from the state is a major problem that Uttarakhand is facing. We also face a major challenge in developing our resources. For us, modernisation of agriculture so that people find it lucrative to grow local crops is a major challenge. We are also trying to promote handicrafts by offering easy loans to women entrepreneurs and create livelihoods to stem the wave of migration.

Coming back to politics, it seems the Congress is facing a war from within. What are you doing about it?
There is hardly any party that does not have internal differences. But in our case, we were not allowed to resolve the differences internally. In fact, the anti-defection law is also supposed to allow political parties to deal with internal differences. Nobody should try to take advantage of a rival party’s internal strife or encourage unscrupulous elements to exploit the situation. This is against the spirit of anti-defection law.

The Uttarakhand episode once again highlights the argument that small states are not viable as they are prone to political instability.
Yes, the size of political entities in smaller states is too small and makes them highly vulnerable to splits. After the recent crisis, I feel that we [in Uttarakhand] should be allowed to have more seats in the legislative assembly – it should be raised from 70 to 80. It is important to fulfill growing aspirations of people. Unless we create more space in these institutions the parties would continue to face problems. We are also exploring possibility of having a bicameral legislature to accommodate more people in the legislature. I would also want the ceiling of 12 ministers for my state to go. Smaller states should not be treated at par with bigger ones, otherwise we will continue to have political instability there.

Have you sent a formal suggestion or request to the centre on this since these changes can only be done through a central legislation?
Right now, it’s an idea that we are discussing among ourselves – within the party.

How does political instability – the kind of which you faced – affect the governance?
It breaks down the pace and direction of governance. In fact, after my government was restored, I felt I had to start all over again. We lost a lot of time in re-orienting the machinery and recasting plans.

At the national level, the Congress is going through a rough patch right now. How can the party be revived?
My only thought on this is that all Congressmen should wait patiently for the situation to change. Some of them are surely getting desperate and committing mistakes. They should realise that right now the tide is in favour of [Narendra] Modi. Things are sure to change. They [Congress cadre] should realise that after two years the masses have started getting disenchanted with Modi. He is falling short of people’s expectations. So our time is coming and if we remain united and patient bright days are surely in the offing.

Should Rahul Gandhi be named the party president?
To most of us, Rahul Gandhi is already the leader. It does not matter what position he holds. His promotion will also happen in due course.

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