MAJOR-General (retired) Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri is one of the leading lights of BJP in Uttaranchal. A member of the Lok Sabha for the fourth time, he was the Union Minister of State for Road Transport in NDA government. Amba Charan Vashishth interviewed him for Organiser Weekly. Excerpts:
How do you assess the Congress govt in the state?
Uttaranchal was created by the BJP-led NDA for meeting people'saspirations, rapid development and rooting out corruption, which could not be tackled effectively when this area was under Uttar Pradesh. Its problems remain as acute and unattended as before even after about four-and-a-half years of Congress rule. BJP carved out Uttaranchal in November 2000. People had great expectations and hopes that rapid development will take place and problems with respect to roads, transport, health, education, employment, poverty, etc., would be attended to on priority. But after five years of an elected government, the present situation remains as dismal as ever. The present government remained indifferent towards developmental issues. It has created almost a vacuum in administration, unexceptionably rampant corruption, unimaginable abuse and misuse of power and indulging in financial irregularities which are beyond imagination. It is no exaggeration to say that there is a total collapse of administration in Uttaranchal and if there is administration at all, it is only for the benefit of ministers and Congress workers, not for people.
How do you plan to address them?
Apart from bringing in a pro-people administration right at the state level down to the village level and attending to the development problems, we will also have to do a lot to undo a large number of wrong acts and practices the present government has indulged in, e.g. misuse and abuse of discretionary funds by CM and ministers, and elimination of corruption. We will create a large number of jobs for the people and create conditions in which the common man vividly perceives a change that the government is functioning honestly for the people and not for a few political leaders.
How is the electoral scene emerging in the state?
As for election scene, the people are totally fed up with the present government and the ruling Congress party. They are eagerly looking for BJP to come in power to give them a clean and pro-people administration.
What are your party'spriorities?
If BJP comes to power, we will establish an honest, dedicated and efficient administration where not only developmental activities are taken at a fast pace, but the bureaucracy too is made to perform its legitimate duties without undue political interference. Eliminating corruption with a strong hand and harnessing the immensely large hydel power potential, forest produce, including medicinal plants, tourism, horticulture, floriculture, etc, is another priority.
What are your party'sprospects?
People are hopefully looking up towards BJP and want it to come to power so that as per the party'sreputation it ushers in a clean and efficient administration.
It was indeed a very unexpected and surprising development that BJP did not get elected to power in the very first election held in the state after its formation. This was a surprising development; even Congress was taken by surprise when it managed to get 36 out of 70 seats in the Vidhan Sabha. They themselves never expected that they would be voted to rule. Looking back, it appears, in the short span of about 12 months when BJP ruled prior to the holding of the first elections after formation of Uttaranchal, people developed very high expectations from us and expected overnight miracles from us. When that did not happen, they probably got disappointed. Before elections, BJP had to perform lot of essential functions in the formative stage, like raising an infrastructure for the new state, make it functional from a new state capital, and also to prepare the state for the elections. There was problem of division of assets too.
Your state was carved out of UP. Have the matters regarding division of assets, allocation of staff, etc., finally been settled or does there remain any dispute still to be resolved?
As for division of assets etc., it is progressing very well. It started in our time. Congress at the Centre and the present government do not seem to take much interest in this.
What will be the criterion for selection of candidates?
Main criterion will be that the candidate should be an educated, committed, dedicated and honest worker of the Party. He should have a clean image. Winnability, of course, will also be one of the criterion.
Will BJP go in for any alliance in the state?
This matter will be decided by the central leadership of the Party at an appropriate time.
Will your party project a chief ministerial candidate during the election campaign?
This again is a matter that will be addressed by the BJP leadership at the centre. I am sure they will do whatever they think proper in the circumstances to ensure that the Party is voted to power.
What is your poll strategy?
We are fully prepared to meet the challenge. As for Congress strategy, I can only visualise that they will indulge in massive misuse of administrative machinery at both the state and the central level. They have their governments both in the state and at the centre. It is a normal practice with them. It is in their very vein. Further, the party has amassed enormous wealth through corrupt practices during the four-and-a-half years in office in the state. Money power will also be used by them to win elections. As far as public response is concerned, they cannot expect any support and sympathy from the people as their administration has throughout been callous, unsympathetic and anti-people. We will expose the Congress fully during the elections.
UPA has changed the name of Uttaranchal into Uttrakhand. What would you say?
It is nothing but an election stunt. The Congress party is pathologically sick of vote-bank politics. Initiating the change of name after almost four-and-a-half years is indeed laughable. You will be surprised to know that in the election manifesto of Congress party for 2002 elections Congress had promised that they would change the name. After coming to power they did nothing for four-and-a-half years. Now to exploit the sentiments of the people, they have done that drama. It makes no sense. People will see through their game.