Holding assembly session at Gairsain move to skirt permanent capital issue, say Statehood activists

Statehood activists criticised the BJP government for its decision to hold the Uttarakhand assembly’s next session at Gairsain saying the move aims to skirt the sensitive issue of the state’s permanent capital that has been eluding it since its formation 17 years ago

dehradun Updated: Nov 26, 2017 19:14 IST
Deep Joshi
Deep Joshi
Hindustan Times
Gairsain,assembly session,permanent capital
The week-long assembly session commences at Gairsain on December 7.(HT Photo)

Statehood activists criticised the BJP government for its decision to hold the Uttarakhand assembly’s next session at Gairsain saying the move aims to skirt the sensitive issue of the state’s permanent capital that has been eluding it since its formation 17 years ago.

The week-long assembly session commences at Gairsain on December 7.

“This (BJP) government’s move to hold an assembly session at Gairsain is nothing but a ploy to skirt the contentious issue of the state’s permanent capital,” said Prof Shekhar Pathak, a veteran statehood activist. “The ruling party is playing a petty politics over such a sensitive issue much like the previous Congress regime,” he added.

Pathak criticised the two main parties alternately ruling the hill state since its formation for “failing to honour” the public sentiment. “People have been demanding right from day one that Gairsain, the hill state’s centrally located hill town, should be made its permanent capital,” he said, clarifying it was not a case of just their identity. “They (the people) strongly feel that a permanent capital there (Gairsain) will also pave the way for growth in the long neglected hills,” he added.

Pathak said the previous Congress regime that built a Vidhan Sabha Bhawan at Gairsain confined itself to holding a Cabinet meeting or a couple of assembly sessions there. “It avoided taking a call on setting up a permanent capital in that town,” he said, adding that the Congress regime could be given a benefit of doubt that it dithered because it had a wafer thin majority in the House.

“The present (BJP) regime doesn’t have any such excuses to offer. It can declare Gairsain as the state’s permanent capital, as it came to power with a massive mandate,” Pathak said and added it was still maintaining ambivalence on such a contentious issue.

Shamsher Singh Bisht, another veteran statehood activist, felt the BJP and the Congress have been evading the permanent capital issue fearing that such a move might accentuate the hill-plain divide. According to him, both the parties feel naming Gairsain as the permanent capital could evoke a huge backlash from the plain districts. “They fear similar reaction from the hills, if Dehradun, (a plain area and the state’s provision capital) or any other plain area is declared as the permanent capital,” Bisht said.

Bisht said the issue of permanent capital would have been resolved if the BJP that had been ruling both at the Centre and the state had taken a timely call on the issue at the time of its formation. “Its (BJP) leaders dithered, as they felt announcing the permanent capital at that point in time could evoke backlash from the plains.”

Pathak felt the two main parties harbouring fear of a backlash from the plain districts was a “clear sign of their mental bankruptcy.”

Sarita Negi, a statehood activist from Pauri agreed. “Such fears are absolutely baseless because like the people from the hills those from the three plain districts too actively participated in the long-drawn agitation for a separate hill state,” she said.

Veteran statehood activist PC Joshi cited the state’s “demographic imbalance that has tilted in favour of the plains” as the reason behind the two main parties hesitating to name Gairsain as the permanent capital. “This (demographic) imbalance has its root in the forced migration from all the 10 hill districts to the plains, for which those who have been helming the state are responsible,” he said.

Activist Sarita Negi agreed that forced migration had its root in the political leadership’s “failure” to boost development in the hills. “Had that hill town (Gairsain) been named the permanent capital of the hill state, it would pave the way for a hill-centric development,” she said. Most statehood activists agreed to her view.

First Published: Nov 26, 2017 19:14 IST