“I’ve changed the style of functioning of government and administration in Uttarakhand”
The Congress high command made a strategic move just ahead of the 2014 general election when it replaced Vijay Bahuguna by HARISH RAWAT as Uttarakhand Chief Minister. Congress insiders say two factors played a major role in Mr. Rawat’s anointment — his popularity across the hill State, and corruption charges and poor performance of the government led by his predecessor. As the party faces a tough task in retaining all five Lok Sabha seats it won in 2009, Mr. Rawat is making a whirlwind tour. Here are excerpts from his interview with Sandeep Joshi in Dehradun.
What are chances of the Congress in the State?
Though we started a bit late, our campaigning has picked up momentum. There will be a close contest, and if we are able to keep up the tempo, we may repeat our 2009 performance.
How are you facing the challenge of removing the tag of corruption and inefficient governance on the Congress in the State and at the Centre?
I have started on a positive note. Since I took over in February, I have disbursed Rs. 2,400 crore for rehabilitation in areas hit by flash floods last year and for starting new projects. We have so far cleared 1,803 projects. I have set up ‘implementation units’ and empowered District Magistrates to spend money on priority projects. We have succeeded in creating a perception that this government should be given a chance to perform.
People are unhappy with mismanagement of flood relief and rehabilitation. Will it impact the Congress chances?
I agree that there were some serious lapses [in carrying out relief work]. Though we are carrying that baggage, we have succeeded in creating a new image among the people of our government and party. I have changed the style of functioning of the government and administration. People are now hopeful that this government will do something for them. Their outlook towards us has changed and we can feel that at our meetings across the State. That is why I say we are going to win all five seats.
Narendra Modi has become BJP’s face in the State. Is there a Modi wave?
There is some curiosity among the people about Mr. Modi ... But there is also a strong negative feeling, particularly in smaller social groups. The BJP and Mr. Modi have created an artificial wave which is purely based on their hi-tech campaign. To be in fight, the BJP has put up three ex-Chief Ministers and they claim that there is Modi wave in the State. The BJP will stand exposed once the results are out.
How stable is your government, particularly after your senior leader Satpal Maharaj joined the BJP?
As of now, there is no effect of Mr. Maharaj leaving the party. In fact, his wife (Congress Minister Amrita Rawat) is campaigning for our candidates. So, if there has been any effect, it is being neutralised. Mr. Maharaj’s plan was to woo some of our MLAs and Independents who are supporting us but that did not happen. He might have some followers in his constituency (Pauri Garhwal), but in the rest of the State there is negligible impact.