Inflation, unemployment biggest election issues: Harish Rawat | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Inflation, unemployment biggest election issues: Harish Rawat

Apr 15, 2024 12:00 PM IST

Harish Rawat says there is lot of anger in hills among youth over paper leak and introduction of Agnipath scheme for recruitment in army

Former Uttarakhand chief minister and senior Congress leader Harish Rawat (75) has been canvassing vigorously for his son Virendra Rawat, who is the party candidate from Haridwar Lok Sabha seat. In an interview to Chetan Chauhan, the most prominent Congress face in the hill state explains why he has not campaigned for other party candidates and why he believes the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will miss the hat-trick of winning all five seats in the state in April 19 general elections. Edited excerpts:

Harish Rawat
Harish Rawat

What are the major poll issues in Uttarakhand?

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I think inflation and unemployment are the two biggest election issues. There is lot of anger in hills among youth over paper leak and introduction of Agnipath scheme for recruitment in army, which was a major source of employment for people in Uttarakhand. People are also talking about corruption and biased conduct of elections. I also feel that lack of development and disrespect for women and deprived sections, such as Scheduled Castes, are some other poll issues.

The Congress lost all five seats in the state in 2014 and 2019. How do you think these elections will be different?

Yes, we lost all the seats in two Lok Sabha elections. It was a close contest for the party and me in 2019 (Rawat lost from Nainital seat by close to 300,000 votes). This time, I can say people are fed up with the BJP and will vote for the Congress. People are fighting the BJP and there is an undercurrent against the ruling party. We are getting good response to the issues we are raising against the BJP.

You were the Congress MP from Haridwar Lok Sabha constituency in 2009, your wife Renuka contested the seat in 2014 and your son is the candidate this time. Does it not mean dynastic politics?

No. I think the party has given ticket to the best candidate who can defeat the BJP.

You are the tallest Congress leader in the state, but there is an allegation that you are spending all your time campaigning for your son and not visiting any other constituency.

I will not lie. It is true I have not been able to give time for other Lok Sabha constituencies. We have been trying to win Haridwar seat for the past 15 years… This time, my son is contesting. I am giving my best for him and don’t want to take any chances.

On ground, the Congress appears to be missing. What is your view?

The way the BJP has tried to financially kill us and poach our leaders have had some impact on ground. But our workers are responding with lot of enthusiasm against the money and resource of the BJP. We are focusing on door-to-door campaign. There was good response to Priyanka (Gandhi Vadra) ji’s rally in Roorkee on March 13. The Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) has come to Uttarakhand twice and it shows the panic of the BJP.

The BJP-led state government has notified Uniform Civil Code and demolished several mazars citing encroachment in forest areas in Haridwar. Do you think these issues will have an impact on the polls?

When the BJP know they will lose, they try to polarise. Before this election, they (BJP) tried their level best to spread hatred among people through these actions. It will have no impact as people can see the ruling party’s intention and have not reacted to it. UCC is not a poll issue in Uttarakhand. Villages here have their own issues of water, migration, jobs and roads. The BJP has failed to address them and people are asking why the party MPs were missing for the past five years. No more people will vote in the name of Narendra Modi.

There has been a lot of ecological damage in Uttarakhand due to construction of Char Dham road and other hydel and developmental projects.

When I was the chief minister, we planned the Char Dham road expansion project. It was improvement of the roads without any ecological damage. We had a plan for dealing with the muck during road widening. The BJP came to power and did not take care of the mountains while widening the roads. The muck was thrown into rivers and hills were cut in a most haphazard manner. If we come to power, we would do development in Uttarakhand in an environment friendly manner.

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    Chetan Chauhan is National Affairs Editor. A journalist for over two decades, he has written extensively on social sector and politics with special focus on environment and political economy.

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