Congress poster boy, chief minister Harish Rawat aka ‘Harda’, is leading a one-man show in poll-bound Uttarakhand. Harda is confident that he will be able to form the next government as “there is no anti-incumbency wave in the hill state”. In an interview to Anupam Trivedi, Rawat claimed that the corruption charges levelled against him by opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are “generic” in nature. Asserting that Congress is facing no “back-stabbing”, he says all “black sheep” are in the BJP. Excerpts:
What is your take on the corruption allegations by BJP?
The allegations against me are generic. BJP says I was involved in mining scam, liquor scam, etc. But do they have any proof? My predecessors and others who are now in BJP rather faced specific corruption charges, which are on record.
Why didn’t you act then?
I was forced to ignore them as I had a bigger task at hand of rebuilding Kedarnath town. I am proud of completing it in time.
You were purportedly seen on a sting video, talking about ways to save the government...
I don’t deny my presence in the so-called sting video. As I said, I ignored trouble creators to save the government, otherwise the bigger task of rebuilding Kedarnath town would have got derailed.
11 MLAs left Congress to join BJP. Do you see it as a loss?
It is always a loss but I feel the loss has been for good. In the previous polls, Congress witnessed a lot of back-stabbing but this time, there is no such thing. In fact, BJP could face trouble as the over-ambitious turncoats are with them. Congress is relaxed.
What about Congress rebels contesting in some 10 seats?
The rebellion is much less than in BJP. Some of them may change mind and campaign for Congress. After all, we are returning to power.
What makes you confident?
I believe voters are with Congress for three reasons. First, I led Uttarakhand-oriented agenda of development, which was not the case with former governments. Secondly, people saw the reality behind how the BJP tried to snatch power by imposing President’s rule in the state. Third is I brought Uttarakhand’s tourism industry and pilgrimage back on track after the 2013 flash floods .
How many seats will you win?
In 42-plus seats, we are ahead of other parties. I am confident of forming the next government as I am contesting to protect ‘Uttarakhandiyat’ (self-respect of state).
Is it Modi versus Harda?
I don’t compare myself with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is, in fact, BJP’s failure if they have made these polls Modi versus Harish Rawat. BJP has no local face and they are therefore fighting on Modi’s brand image. Does BJP have any work carried out by Modi government specifically for Uttarakhand to project? Well, I have something to show. I have several development schemes, jobs for 20,000-odd youths, rebuilding Kedarnath valley. There is a long list.