In an exclusive interview with The New Indian, the former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Harish Rawat talks about the contentious issue of the Uniform Civil Code. The national general secretary of the Indian National Congress also said that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) named Draupadi Murmu as their candidate for the Presidential election to appease the tribal vote bank, who are not happy with the UCC.
While Rawat lashed out at the Uttarakhand government on various issues, he also praised Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami for raising important issues with the Prime Minister in the interest of the state.
On his party’s gradual decline in the electoral space of the country, Rawat said that the party needs to strengthen itself by declaring a leader in respective states and fighting elections under him/her.
Here is an excerpt:
Q: What is your take on the Uttarakhand government’s decision to implement the Uniform Civil Code in the state.
A: Uniform Civil Code is not just an issue of Uttarakhand. This is a national issue and Uttarakhand is being used as a testing ground. India is a diverse country with multiple religious and ethnic groups which have their laws, personal laws related to marriage, property etc. Many communities have matriarchal societies.
After questions were raised (about UCC), the BJP brought up Draupadi Murmu (Presidential candidate of the NDA). This was an electoral compulsion which forced the BJP to play this card when it was about to lose the tribal votes across the country.
Q: How do you see the first 100 days of the newly elected Dhami government of Uttarakhand?
A: Dhamiji has been the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand for more than 200 days now as he became Chief Minister in the previous regime. People have high expectations but the beginning of this government is not up to the expectation.
Law and order situation has gone for a toss. The government has not been able to handle the Char Dham Yatra as more than 200 people have died on the yatra routes. The infrastructure is in shambles as a 3km stretch of a road has 300 potholes.
Government departments are replete with irregularities and scams, an issue that has been raised by the leader of the opposition Yashpal Arya. It seems there has been a war going on between ministers and bureaucracy.
But I must appreciate the CM for raising the issue of GST compensation for Uttarakhand and extending the duration of the compensation (which ended on June 30, 2022) with the centre. He also raised the issue of the share of Uttarakhand in the Tehri dam. However, the centre’s attitude has been negative on these issues of Uttarakhand. Our state is going to lose the most if the duration is not increased.
Q: You think Bharatiya Janata Party’s ‘Double Engine’ is just an empty promise?
A: I feel hurt while I say this. At present Chief Ministers of Uttarakhand as well as Uttar Pradesh are from Uttarakhand and this affects electoral politics in both states. But in reality, our interests are not protected. In the division of properties between UP and Uttarakhand, the interests of Uttarakhand have been mortgaged. Their stand is, as these cases are sub-judice, we cannot do anything about it.
Though CM Dhami took a corrective step and raised the Tehri dam issue before the Prime Minister, my point is that whatever promises made by BJP, should be implemented on the ground.
‘Green Bonus’ has always been a prime issue for Uttarakhand, no matter which party is ruling or who is the CM. So, it is the responsibility of the centre to award the bonus to our state. This issue was taken seriously by the UPA government when P Chidambaram was the Union finance minister. In his last budget, he sanctioned Rs 1100-1200 crores specifically for the green bonus for all the Himalayan states. That was the start but then this was not continued after the UPA went out of power.
Q: What is Rahul Gandhi doing to revive the Congress party?
A: Rahul Gandhi will prove to be a perfect Prime Minister for this country if the people give him a chance. The Congress party should work to strengthen itself in the states by appointing a leader in a state and making it clear to everyone that the party will fight under the appointed person’s leadership.
Like democracy, we also have the option to change the person if he/she fails to deliver.
Q: Udaipur witnessed a gruesome incident recently. Isn’t that a failure on part of the Ashok Gehlot government?
A: This is an intelligence failure on the part of the centre. If not then what is the National Investigation Agency (NIA) doing there? Why is the incident being termed an international conspiracy then? If this is a well-planned international conspiracy then the state’s local intelligence unit (LIU) is not equipped to handle it. Only central agencies are.