Back after a hiatus, former chief minister Harish Rawat has long-term plans for the Congress resurgence in Uttarakhand where all five Lok Sabha seats and 57 assembly constituencies are with the ruling BJP.
After losing power in March, the Congress veteran maintained a distance from Haridwar, which was once his parliamentary constituency. During his tenure as MP and CM, Rawat regularly visited the city. But after his wife Renuka’s defeat in the 2014 general election and later his own, he blamed local leaders for not campaigning earnestly. Ill-health also troubled him for some time.
Now, Rawat is again visiting Haridwar, meeting party leaders, workers and seers and commenting on issues related with Haridwar such as quarrying and delay in the Haridwar-Dehradun highway work.
The overtures are fuelling speculations of him contesting from Haridwar where in 2009, he won with a victory margin of 1.15 lakh votes. That victory led him to become a Union minister in UPA-II rule and, subsequently, the chief minister of Uttarakhand.
Talking to Hindustan Times after a meeting with Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad over the disappearance of mahant Mohan Das, Rawat said despite ailing health, he was determined to ensure victory for the Congress in 2019 parliamentary and 2022 assembly elections.
“I am now not involved in local party affairs as the parliamentary elections are just 20 months away. Time will tell whether I contest or not, but I will work hard to ensure win for Congress candidates in 2019. I will give all dedication to whatever responsibility the party assigns. I will be visiting all five parliamentary constituencies as my prime focus is 2019,” he said.
To a question on the reasons for his electoral loss at Haridwar rural and Kitcha segments, Rawat said the voters didn’t accepted him. “But I surely will seek blessings from deities (read voters) who will accept me.”
“Whether it is Haridwar or Almora, I know these constituencies and local issues quite well as I have represented them in Parliament. A few weeks of bed rest owing to injury gave me the time to concentrate on my future course and politics. The double engine train will jump out of track in 2019 in Uttarakhand, as both the PM and the CM have failed to live up to the pre-election promises the BJP made to voters.”
Swami Rishirishwaranand of Chetan Jyoti ashram felt the sadhus were happy with Rawat for the successful completion of Ardh Kumbh. “We are willing to support him if he contests again from Haridwar.”
Political commentator Padam Singh Chauhan, who has closely followed Rawat ever since he first contested against BJP stalwart Murali Manohar Joshi from Almora in 1980, is of the view that in comparison to sitting parliamentarian Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Rawat still is popular and enjoys a clean working image among voters.