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The Rediff Interview/Uttarakhand Chief Minister BC Khanduri

'Great injustice is being done with Uttarakhand'

December 29, 2008

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Uttarakhand [Images] Chief Minister BC Khanduri talks to Shishir Prashant about containing dissidence in state BJP ranks, Sixth Pay Commission and his party's chances in the forthcoming general elections.

You faced a big political embarrassment in August after a majority of BJP MLAs sought your removal. Is dissidence in Uttarakhand BJP over?

In a family, there are always differences of opinion. We had not anticipated it (dissidence). There can be differences but there should be no hatred. There are different ways to manifest your differences, the problem starts when there is hatred in the mind. But anyhow, I am deeply involved in my work. I was working at that time; I am working now as well.

The MLAs were complaining that their grievances were not being heard at your level. Has anything been done in this direction?

From my side, I have tried to overcome the shortcomings.

Have ways been devised to give MLAs access to you?

Earlier, there used to be formal meetings. But now, things are becoming informal. There are more frequent informal meetings. Things are being sorted out. I think we both have understood what should be done. Actually, the problem starts when you are working in your own constituency. You want to sort out problems very quickly. I understand fully what our MLAs want. So, things are moving in a positive direction.

What was the rationale behind creating the post of Deputy Speaker in the Vidhan Sabha?

The Speaker (Harbans Kapoor) was facing a problem of extra work. Moreover, you require such a post to decide various policy matters. A presiding officer cannot take all the responsibilities. This post has been created keeping in view the urgency in the House and not because we wanted to give a post to some MLA.

The opposition parties stayed away from the process of electing the Deputy Speaker. They say the post should have gone to them. It was the BJP, which started the trend of giving the post of Deputy Speaker to the opposition. But now, the trend has changed.

Only in 15 states has the post gone to the opposition. In the remaining 13, the post is with the ruling party. Moreover, during the past five years (when the Congress was ruling the state), the post remained vacant. If the Congress had started such a trend, the post would have definitely gone to the opposition this time.

Posts in various corporations and agencies are being created and brought out of the ambit of office-of-profit. Are these now being given to MLAs to placate them?

We want all MLAs to share responsibilities. I think the government should benefit from their experiences.

During the past two years, the government's non-Plan expenditure has been on the rise, especially in the wake of the Sixth Pay Commission and the increasing perks of MLAs. How will you generate extra revenue?

A sub-committee of the state cabinet has been set up to generate more sources of income for the state and to take austerity steps. Whatever suggestions this committee gives, we will implement them. I am sure there will be some constructive suggestions.

What are your views on this particular issue?

I believe there are immense sources of revenue in the state. If the Sixth Pay Commission is putting a burden of Rs 5,000 crore on the state exchequer, we have the capacity to take a loan of (up to) Rs 15,000 crore. We can generate 30,000 Mw power. If we are able to produce even 10,000 Mw, we can easily generate an extra income of Rs 10,000 crore since one Mw gives us Rs 1 crore. We can also generate income from the tourism sector.

But all these sectors are very slow and we need the money now.

In a democratic system, the process has to be slow. We cannot compete with China, where things are moving at a faster pace. In a democratic set-up, there is likely to be some delay.

Are you imposing new taxes to increase revenue? Recently, you imposed an entry tax.

The factual position is that new taxes are not being imposed. As far as the entry tax is concerned, it was abolished after the high court raised certain objections saying it was not being utilised in the right way. We have gone to the court again and imposed the tax in the right way.

Are you going to strengthen the tax collection system in the state?

This is a regular exercise. It will continue every year.

Are your going for a cabinet reshuffle as you tighten your grip on the state BJP?

This is not the time to talk about such things. We are already burdened by the Sixth Pay Commission. There are other questions regarding the burgeoning burden on the state exchequer. We are trying to resolve all these issues. As and when we think that there should be such an exercise, we will think over it.

The state BJP has set for itself the goal of winning all five Lok Sabha seats in the next general election. Are you confident?

We are making consistent efforts to win all five Lok Sabha seats in the state. For this, we have already given training to our party workers. People at the grassroot level are happy with the development works done by the government. I think we should not have any problem in winning all the seats.

There is a general perception that Mr Khanduri is a lucky mascot for the BJP in Uttarakhand. Do you agree?

Whether I am lucky or unlucky is a different matter. But we must work for the betterment of the people. Yes, to achieve success, you have to be lucky. I believe in this theory. With God's grace, things are going very well for me. But I am not alone. My colleagues are also contributing. You get this through hard work and God's grace.

Is Uttarakhand going to have a separate anti-terror law?

There are lots of problems regarding terrorism in Uttarakhand. We have a long border with Nepal. Our main concern is strengthening the police and our intelligence system. We talked to the Centre about the issues. We have already set up a task force. Since the Centre has also introduced a Bill on terrorism, we will study it before taking any decision.

The special industrial package (for hill states) has not been extended, despite your persistent efforts. What do you have to say?

A great injustice is being done with Uttarakhand. The (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee government had given this package for a period of 10 years. But the Congress government restricted the package to seven years. If industrialisation has given benefits to Uttarakhand, it has benefited to the country also. We are making efforts with Himachal Pradesh [Images] for extension of the package for another three years till March 2013.

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