As Team Anna prepares to hold public meetings in poll-bound Uttarakhand, the former Bharatiya Janata Party MP, T.P.S. Rawat, whose Uttarakhand Raksha Morcha (URM) is also in the fray, has hit out at the prominent members of Mr. Hazare's team, accusing them of siding with Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri to bail out the BJP in the Assembly polls.
The former Lt. General has also alleged that the so-called “strong” Lokayukta Bill cleared by the State government was nothing but a “big farce.”
“Anna Hazare is a good man…it is his team members — Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi — who are in some kind of a pact with Mr. Khanduri to build his image and improve the BJP's chances in the Assembly elections. That is why the entire BJP's electioneering is focused around Mr. Khanduri. Why Team Anna is organising meetings only in Uttarakhand, why not in Uttar Pradesh or Punjab where Assembly elections are being held? Why are they not talking about massive corruption in the BJP-ruled Uttarakhand? All this is stage-managed,” Lt. Gen. (retd.) Rawat told The Hindu.
Stating that the BJP government was the “most corrupt” that the State had seen so far, Lt. Gen. Rawat said Team Anna's political agenda was to help the BJP win elections in Uttarakhand.
“There is support for Anna Hazare, but his team has been exposed, particularly after the entire managed show of getting the Lokayukta Bill passed in the State Assembly. If cleared by the Centre, the new Lokayukta will not check corruption but promote it. It is a weak bill…its certain provisions will stop people from approaching the Lokayukta with their complaints,” he said.
Interestingly, Lt. Gen. Rawat, once close to Major General (retd.) Khanduri, has been the Tourism Minister in the previous Congress government (2002-07). After retaining the Dhumakot Assembly segment, which falls under the Garhwal Lok Sabha constituency, for the Congress in 2007, he quit his seat for Chief Minister Khanduri to ensure his entry into the Assembly. Lt. Gen. Rawat then not only joined the BJP but also successfully contested the by-election for the Garhwal Lok Sabha seat, which was vacated by Major Gen. Khanduri.
However, things changed in the 2009 general elections as the BJP was wiped out in the State and Major Gen. Khanduri had to take the blame for it. Gen. Rawat lost to Congress' Satpal Maharaj from Garhwal, thus ending the BJP's decade-long dominance in the constituency. Major Gen. Khanduri had comfortably won the seat for the BJP four times – 1991, 1998, 1999 and 2004.
After Major Gen. Khanduri was removed as Chief Minister in 2009, the relations between the two soured. Though last year during the Anna Hazare movement, they briefly came together during the anti-corruption stir in Uttarakhand, they again parted ways after Major Gen. Khanduri was re-appointed Chief Minister.
In the current elections, the URM, formed by Lt. Gen. Rawat during the Anna movement, is contesting in 44 seats out of 70, where the majority candidates are rebels from the Congress, the BJP and one faction of the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal. Lt. Gen. Rawat is also in the fray from his erstwhile Assembly segment Dhumakot, which has been renamed Lansdowne (the headquarters of Garhwal Rifles) after delimitation.
Asked why the URM was contesting elections, Lt. Gen. Rawat said: “We started as a social, anti-corruption organisation but soon realised that unless we had power, we cannot succeed in our goal of creating a corruption-free and progressive State. People from across the State who have joined the URM asked us to contest elections…many political leaders from various parties who were marginalised also joined us, so we decided to enter the fray hoping to bring in some positive change in the State.”