Joining Congress wasn’t my plan... BJP overreacted, says Harak Singh Rawat
Uttarakhand elections: “Congress wanted me to join them but that wasn’t really my plan. I think the BJP overreacted after seeing such reports on social media, and this will prove to be harmful for the party,” Harak Singh Rawat said.
The Bhartiya Janata Party expelled a sitting minister from its government in Uttarakhand amid reports that he was unhappy and negotiating with the Congress. Harak Singh Rawat may be joining the opposition party soon, but he told Sunetra Choudhury that the BJP forced his hand, and his unhappiness was after years of being ignored, and not being allowed to deliver crucial promises to voters in the state.
Is it fair to say that things haven’t been well for you in the BJP for a while now?
My issues with the party were related to development, I had differences with leaders on that. The differences weren’t that serious that I was negotiating with the Congress party, although it is true that several of their leaders had contacted me. They wanted me to join them but that wasn’t really my plan. I think the BJP overreacted after seeing such reports on social media, and this will prove to be harmful for the party. Pralhad Joshi had summoned me to Delhi to talk about the issues and I was supposed to come there today and discuss, but they went ahead and took this decision, which is unfortunate.
Are you saying that BJP’s action is based purely on speculation?
Yes, because I thought that all these details which were appearing weren’t accurate. I don’t know how those who run the country can take decisions like this. I have not made any commitment to the Congress, but whatever happens now will be for the good. Congress will get a full majority government in the state.
Did the troubles start when we reported your fight during a cabinet meeting last month after which you walked out?
For the last 4-5 years, I have been raising some issues relating to my constituency of Kotdwar. I promised my constituents that we will establish a medical college there and a central school. I kept reminding Modiji 10 times of this in Delhi, or Amit Shahji, and I kept telling the health minister. I felt that if the Centre is unable to help, then the state government should be able to help. However, they kept putting it off, and so I objected.
I said that this was a betrayal of the promises made to the people. Everybody knows that the health system in the state is very poor in the entire region of Pauri, and this would prove to be a very serious problem during the pandemic. When I made an issue of this, they approved the Kotdwar medical college.
But the problem is that they keep stalling everything. For instance, I couldn’t get the school (Kendriya Vidyalaya) sanctioned in the area despite organising land for the area. Then there is the issue of karamcharis in the state, which I raised but was unsuccessful in helping them. I tried to raise the pay grade of police personnel in the state, about 70,000 of them, but even that they didn’t accept.
So, it felt like we had no government, there was no one to listen to our problems. If I am raising genuine issues, does it mean that I am opposing you? Wouldn’t BJP have gained if they listened to me on these issues?
But the BJP says those that are leaving are ones who didn’t get choice of their tickets? They allege you wanted one for your daughter-in-law.
First of all, it is wrong to say that they don’t give tickets to kin of netas. Last time around, they gave it to family members of several leaders like Munna Chauhan’s wife, etc. I did tell them about my daughter-in-law and pointed out that they could consider her as she has done some good work. If they think she could have won, they should have, else given it to someone else. They could have asked me to sit it out, and then I would have helped candidates win. But, now these sound like face-saving excuses.
What’s happening in the BJP right now? We see several leaders in UP and now you who are going back to their original parties or leaving BJP. Why?
I have also been in Kalyan Singh’s cabinet in 1991 and so have been in the BJP for a long time. However, there is a major difference between that BJP and the current one. You can’t imagine how selfish the current lot is.
There has also been a lot of change in Uttarakhand; so many chief ministers.
That’s what I am saying. Earlier, it was clear who the party leaders were in a state. Here, they are playing a joke on the people of Uttarakhand, and the joke is that if anyone wants employment, there’s a vacancy in the CM’s post. Everybody is a contender for that post now. How can a national party which calls itself the largest party in the world can operate like this? Why are they treating the state like a laboratory? Despite all this, I am telling you today that I would have stayed in the party if it wasn’t for what they did today.
What did the Prime Minister say when you raised all this?
I even raised it with him on stage when he came recently. This is other than the number of times I met him in the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office). But he didn’t seem to have the mind space to look at this.
However, don’t you think the Congress has its own set of problems?
There are problems in every party. I have been in Congress for 20 years, and been a minister in ND Tiwari’s government. They know how to develop leadership and give opportunities to people. In the BJP, I felt that people don’t get opportunities.
Finally, what would you say about the Haridwar event, which saw hate speeches against Muslims. Why didn’t we see louder condemnation of it?
No one should indulge in politics of religion. In Kotdwar, there were many Muslims in the constituency who don’t vote for BJP, and wouldn’t have voted for me, but I still worked for them. You can ask them all. This country is one which is meant for all, and it’s not just Hindus who have built the country that we live in today, but our Muslim brothers too. How can we do politics like this, it is totally unnecessary.