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Haldwani clashes state-sponsored violence: Harish Rawat

In this interview with DH’s Sumit Pande, Harish Rawat claims communal polarisation in Uttar Pradesh is impacting politics in the neighbouring hill state and dubs communal clashes in Haldwani earlier this year as state-sponsored violence.
Last Updated 02 April 2024, 23:52 IST

New Delhi: Former Uttarakhand chief minister and Congress leader Harish Rawat has spent five terms in parliament. This time around, though, he is marshalling resources for his son Virendra, who is contesting from the Haridwar Lok Sabha seat against another former state CM, Trivendra Singh Rawat of the BJP. In this interview with DH’s Sumit Pande, Rawat claims communal polarisation in Uttar Pradesh is impacting politics in the neighbouring hill state and dubs communal clashes in Haldwani earlier this year as state-sponsored violence.

What are the issues Congress is raising in the Lok Sabha polls?

First of all, there is an anti-incumbency against the state government. And secondly, unemployment is emerging as a big issue. In the hilly region of the state, land laws restricting land purchase by outsiders are agitating the minds of the people.

Even when it was part of UP, traditionally, Uttarakhand hasn’t been affected by communal polarisation. But that does not seem to be the case anymore. How do you see the Haldwani communal flare-up?

There was no doubt encroachment there (where the violence broke out). However, it never affected communal harmony. The government deliberately created a situation to trigger a violent incident. It was a state-sponsored violence. You know that people are agitated, but you are starting the demolition without taking the locals into confidence. Had you spoken to those people, the violence could have been avoided. You (the administration) went there without preparation and created a situation that would create unrest.

The Congress had a strong base in Uttarakhand. But the party failed to win the past two Lok Sabha and assembly polls. What is the reason?

The first reason is that Uttarakhand politics is influenced by Uttar Pradesh. And whenever there is communal polarisation in UP, it tends to have a spillover impact in the hill state as well. We lost the past two assembly polls—in 2017 and 2022—by a very close margin. We were not able to counter the communal storm blowing in from UP in the past three days ahead of the elections.

The people of Uttarakhand had great expectations when the state was formed in 2020. And yet, the migration in search of jobs from the hills continues unabated.

Migration continues because jobs and employment have not been created. There is also no attempt by the state government to mitigate migration. Additionally, the fear of wild animals who are venturing out of their natural habitats has added to the litany of people’s woes who are leaving their villages.

Your son Virendra Rawat is contesting elections from the seat that you once represented in the Lok Sabha. The BJP alleges this symbolises nepotism in Congress.

This is not an issue among the people. The voters look at the ties and relationships the candidate or his family has developed with the constituency. Debates on nepotism can be an intellectual exercise, but not a real one.

Without family support, it is difficult to survive in public life. Even if you are an MLA and have access to a chopper, you can reach 10 people every day. You can go everywhere, so your family tends to help you reach out and connect to your constituency.

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(Published 02 April 2024, 23:52 IST)

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