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'BJP's only legacy has been 7 CMs in the past 7 years'

Last updated on: January 20, 2012 15:51 IST

'BJP has been involved in one scam after another'

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Congress will definitely win in Uttarakhand and replace the "corrupt" Bharatiya Janata Party government in the forthcoming polls, says All India Congress Committee in-charge of the state Chaudhry Birendra Singh in an interview

As the All India Congress Committee in-charge of Uttarakhand and someone who is intricately involved in the Congress party's electoral campaign in the state, how do you see the prospect of the party in the upcoming assembly polls?

There are clear indications that the Congress is in a strong position. First, there is total disarray within the BJP with several desertions from their ranks -- while some rebels have joined other parties, most are contesting the election as independents.

Second, the Congress has a strong presence among the people in Uttarakhand. In states such as this one, where by and large a two-party system works, people have gained strong faith in the commitment of the Congress over the years.

Third, there is a long list of allegations of corrupt practices against the present BJP regime.

Uttarakhand is the most literate state in India after Kerala. The ruling BJP in the state has totally drifted. It has been involved in one scam after another -- illegal mining, permitting purchase of land by non-state residents, etc. As these things (scams) are visible to the masses and the electorate, it helps consolidate our position.

And, all election surveys by the media have shown us (Congress) ahead of the BJP.

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Image: Chaudhry Birendra Singh


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'Rebels are a bigger problem for BJP'

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But, the Congress seems to be facing a major challenge not as much from BJP candidates as from its own rebels who are contesting as independents.

The assembly constituencies in Uttarakhand are small in size with a voter base of 60,000-100,000. So, rebels do play a role and have an impact. But there is a political churning in the state, which is for the Congress. Also, there is, in general, an anti-BJP fervour. So, by the time polls happen, the rebel factor will not matter.

Frankly, rebels are a bigger problem for the BJP than for us. We have given tickets to all our sitting Members of Legislative Assembly.

Congress veteran from Uttarakhand, Narayan Dutt Tewari, has been a political outcast, since the Hyderabad Raj Bhavan scandal. But his re-emergence in state politics has become worrisome for the party.

Tewariji, 87, is a veteran freedom fighter and is called the Vikas Purush of Uttarakhand. At such a stature, he is politically important. There are rumours that he won't support the Congress, but this is untrue.

He has said for 70 years of his life, he has been with the Congress. This proves he is a thorough Congressman. He has even written a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and has come out clearly in favour of the Congress. His blessings are with the party.

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Image: N D Tewari


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'There are basic flaws in the Lokayukta Bill'

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Yes, but didn't this happen only after you rushed to Dehradun, met him and placated him?

I met him about ten days back and he clarified his allegiance to the party. His officer on special duty Arendra Sharma and his nephew Manish Tewari are contesting elections on Congress tickets. The Uddhampur district (from where Manish Tewari is contesting) has been a stronghold of Tewariji.

As corruption is an overriding concern in these polls, you will recall that the Uttarakhand government's Lokayukta Bill came in for a lot of praise. It was hailed as the ideal Bill by Anna Hazare. In contrast, the Congress' Lokpal Bill was labelled weak.

I reiterate that Uttarakhand is the most literate state in the north and people here know and recognise this Lokayukta Bill as a mere gimmick. There are basic flaws in the Bill. Contrary to what is being claimed, no political leader, including the chief minister, can ever be prosecuted. They are just tall claims. In any case, Hazare has no impact on the polls.

How can you forget that B C Khanduri became chief minister just four months before the elections as then incumbent Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal had to be removed by the BJP, fearing a backlash on the corruption issue?

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Image: Ramesh Pokhriyal


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'We have many who are CM material'

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The Bahujan Samaj Party has over the years emerged as an important player in the state. In 2007, they managed to bag 11.76 per cent of the vote share and won eight seats. How big a factor is the BSP in these polls?

The BSP is an important factor in the plains of the state, where there are 36 constituencies spread across three districts. BSP's strong presence there would have a more damaging effect on the BJP's poll prospects.

But, in the hills, where there are 34 assembly constituencies across 13 districts, it is a fight between the BJP and the Congress.

Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Harish Rawat has filed his nomination papers for these assembly polls. There is a buzz that he is a prospective candidate for the post of chief minister?

(Laughs) We have many who are chief minister material. We don't believe in projecting any one person, as it can backfire even among the electorate. Collective leadership in the state will help us win the polls. And, in our party, it's the Congress president who takes the final call.

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Image: B C Khanduri


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'Over the past five years, not one case has been taken up'

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It seems the Congress intends to capitalise on the corruption allegations against the BJP in the state. But the BJP is also set to highlight the scams under the present United Progressive Alliance regime, including the 2G spectrum and the Commonwealth Games.

In the past seven years, the only legacy of the BJP regime has been that it had to bring in seven chief ministers. Not a single chief minister could complete a full term. Whether it be the Mahakumbh scam, the Sterdia land scam, the SAF winter games or even misuse of the disaster relief fund, the BJP regime has seen a history of scams. We are highlighting these in our election manifesto.

As part of our poll promises, we are stating that not only will the corrupt be brought to book, but we will ensure that they are punished. Last time (2007), we were done in by the fact that 56 instances of irregularities were pointed out against the Congress government. That damaged us in the polls. Strangely, over the past five years, not one case was taken up and no one has been prosecuted. So, we will promise to ensure that the corrupt are punished.

Your home state is Haryana, but you seem to be out of action there.

It is too early to do anything there; the polls are still two years away.

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Image: The Congress Party flag


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