Dehradun: For the first time after he quit the Congress and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, Pauri parliamentarian Satpal Maharaj elaborated the circumstances that drove him to part ways with the ruling party in an interview with HT on Friday.
A known spiritual leader who commands a huge personal following in the Hills, Maharaj said the Congress party “suffocated” him and always blamed him for his “image as a Hindu leader”.
“The Congress leadership always denied responsibilities to me both within the government and within the party organisation…They would always tell me my image as a Hindu leader was a constraint on my capacity as a political leader.”
He said the party ignored his talents both as a leader and as an administrator. Maharaj resigned from the Congress on March 21.
“I parted ways with the Congress, a party that I served for so many years, because its leadership constantly humiliated me by ignoring my talent both as a leader and an administrator,” he said. Maharaj alleged that Congress high command ignored him by nominating Vijay Bahuguna as the chief minister after the party won the 2012 assembly elections,” Maharaj said.
He suggested that he was again ignored two years later when Bahuguna was replaced with Harish Rawat as the CM because of his (Bahuguna’s) failure to effectively deal with the rehabilitation and reconstruction issues after the mid-June flash floods last year.
He alleged that the Congress leadership ignored him while constituting the central cabinet. “The party won all the five parliamentary seats in the state in the 2009 LS polls, yet only one MP, Harish Rawat, got the cabinet berth. I was completely ignored,” Maharaj said.
“Despite sending four MPs to Parliament from Himachal Pradesh, the state Congress unit there was able to get two ministries,” he pointed out.
Maharaj alleged that he was ignored despite having been the Union minister of state for railways and finance under the HD Deve Gowda government.
Reacting to the speculation that he would attempt to pull the plug on government by having the MLAs loyal to him switch their support to BJP, Maharaj said, “I am more interested in the politics at the central level.”
He said a few MLAs are loyal to him, but he would not do anything to bring down the government.
Congress a Party without leader
Maharaj dubbed the Congress as a party without leader. “It is going to the polls but the people don’t know who the Congress’ PM candidate is. The party has no leader with a substance, who it can project as its face in the ensuing Lok Sabha election,” Maharaj said.
“A group of us (Congress) MPs met Soniaji (Congress president Sonia Gandhi) last year and asked her to let Rahul take over as the PM, but she didn’t listen to us. Had she heeded our advice perhaps the Congress today would have something to talk about,” he said.
He said he would start a whistle-stop tour of all the five Lok Sabha Constituency on April 12 and would do all he could to ensure the victory of BJP.
“The sole motive behind my campaign is to ensure that our party (BJP) wins all the five LS seats in the state so that Modiji becomes the country’s next Prime Minister,” said Maharaj referring to BJP prime ministerial nominee and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
“Who else is capable of that (PM) post? After all he (Modi) has proved himself by giving a successful model of development… In whole of Asia, Gujarat figures second on the development index,” Maharaj said.