C. K. Chandramohan

Promises ministerial berth to a State MP, says Congress “anti-Uttarakhand”

DEHRA DUN: In a major last-minute offensive to garner votes, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttarakhand has been raking up emotive issues and promising a minister from the State at the Centre in lieu of votes.

Chief Minister B. C. Khanduri has been promising one or more berths in the Union Cabinet to MPs from the State if the BJP is voted to power.

“You give us votes and we will give you ministers who will work for the region,” Mr. Khanduri said, adding that the Congress was least bothered about the State, and had, therefore, failed to make even a single MP from Uttarakhand a minister at the Centre. During the days of NDA rule at the Centre, Mr. Khanduri and Bachi Singh Rawat, sitting MP from Almora, were both ministers in the Vajpayee Cabinet.

The BJP has been painting the Congress as anti-Uttarakhand and a party to the atrocities on Uttarakhand activists by the Mulayam Singh Government during the agitation for a separate hill State. “The Congress was supporting the Mulayam Singh Government in Uttar Pradesh during the agitation and did not utter a word when the cops unleashed terror by raping and murdering Uttarakhand activists at Rampur Tiraha in Muzaffarnagar, Mussoorie, Nainital and Khatima. Not only this, a few top Congress leaders had then openly announced that they would not allow formation of Uttarakhand come what may,” the BJP has been saying at election meetings in the run-up to polling day.

The emotive game assumed a different dimension in the Tehri Lok Sabha constituency where Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president Rita Bahuguna went about seeking votes for her brother, sitting Congress MP Vijay Bahuguna. “How can Ms. Bahuguna claim to be a sympathiser of Uttarakhandis when she had remained a mute spectator to the early 1990s atrocities?” asked the BJP, adding that she was the Samajwadi Party Mayor of Allahabad at that time.

In this milieu, the real issues of providing employment in the rural areas, drinking and irrigation water to the villages, power, education and medical facilities in villages and steps to check natural calamities such as landslides, forest fires, the terror of man-eating leopards in the hills or murderous rogue elephants in the Hardwar-Rishikesh region and the unabated large number of fatal road accidents in the hills seem to have taken a back seat. “Uttarakhand will develop in the real sense only if the leaders stopped the blame game and got down to micro-level development rather than talking out of air-conditioned cabins in Dehra Dun or New Delhi,” said many women who trudge several kilometres every day to fetch water, fuel and fodder.