The BJP lost all the five Lok Sabha seats in Uttarakhand in the recent polls, including the three it had won in 2004. Shri BC Khanduri had offered to resign immediately after the poll results. During his over two years term as Chief Minister, he implemented many innovative policies. He started the concept of Janata Milan, in a move to take governance to the grassroots level. It was hosted in every district by the State ministers and officers. The Janta Milan had become very popular and brought relief to lakhs of villagers. Shri Khanduri also introduced a new concept in recruitment by abolishing interviews to ensure transparency and to stop manipulation. The 108 Free Ambulance service created history in Uttarakhand by proving its utility for the highlanders.
Shri Khanduri implemented fifty per cent reservation for women in the Panchayat polls and appointed over 10,000 teachers and regularised the Shiksha Mitras. He was instrumental in the opening of a Medical College in Srinagar (Garhwal) and in providing cheapest medical education in India at Rs. 15,000 per annum in government Medical Colleges. In a recent move, education up to class 12 was made free for all in government and government-aided schools. In spite of so many achievements, the BJP suffered a defeat in the Lok Sabha polls in Uttarakhand. Organiser representative Ravindra Saini spoke to him on various issues in Dehradun. Excerpts:
How do you feel after giving up the chair of chief ministership?
I have no regrets about my ouster from the post of CM as I am an obedient soldier of the party and would work according to the directions given to me. I stepped down for the interest of the party. I will continue to perform as MLA as per my ability and experiences to my level best and would follow the orders of the party High Command.
Are you fully satisfied with your performance as Chief Minister?
Being one of the statehood agitationists myself, I had dream of taking this State to prosperity and make it an ideal State, but too many elections in the past years posed an obstacle in the development process. I was looking forward to working incessantly in the remaining three years as there would not have been any election. I had taken over as Chief Minister in 2007 with a big dream for Uttarakhand. In undivided UP, there was no development of the region, corruption was rampant and unemployment was a big problem. I tried to curb these three menaces. I wished to rid the State of land mafia and liquor mafia. I took several harsh decisions for the good of the common men.
What were the reasons behind the Lok Sabha poll debacle in the State?
The party was expecting to win at least three seats. We could not understand the public mandate that came then. One of the main reasons behind the defeat of the party on all the seats was the lack of publicity about the government’s achievements amongst the public of the State. There could be a lot of other reasons and they ought to be analysed.
Don’t you take the responsibility of Lok Sabha poll debacle?
Being the Chief Minister, it was my moral responsibility to take the blame, but as I have stated that I worked with complete integrity and honesty in the attempt to create a State according to the dreams of the Uttarakhand agitationists and succeeded in doing so to some extent. That was why BJP won all elections before the Lok Sabha elections. My main focus was to provide transparent governance, in which I succeeded to an extent. Being a true party worker, I tried to work according to the guidelines of the party.
The Lok Sabha election was fought in the national perspective and on national issues. The electorally aware people of Uttarakhand always voted keeping in mind the national picture for such elections. This had been reflected in who made the government at the Centre. I have personal experience of this because I had been elected to the Lok Sabha for four times. In the past two years, ten electoral exercises had been held at various levels in the State, which included by-elections to the Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha, Panchayat and Municipal elections. The party had done extremely well. Just 15 days after the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won the Kapkot by-election with 7,690 votes. The Congress came third, even though it had got a lead of 2,500 votes in the Lok Sabha election from the same constituency.
Why was there a campaign by some MLAs and Ministers for your ouster as CM?
I do not want to comment on this issue. I worked for the employment generation, development, elimination of corruption and promotion of the state in accordance with its culture but some vested interests had been working against my government from the very beginning. BJP is a party where discipline is always given due priority and it is up to the party to see if there had been a breach of discipline by anyone.
What dream project do you want Dr “Nishank” to complete?
I have a plateful of dreams for him to complete. Dr Nishank is a young and energetic leader and may be having some of his own dreams. I am confident, he will fulfill it and take the State to the horizon of prosperity. I do admit that some of my works or dreams had not been completed yet I am hopeful that under the leadership of Dr Nishank, the government would fulfill the aspirations of the youth and the agitationists. A strong foundation for development in the State had been laid by me and I hope Dr Nishank would carry forward the work effectively with utmost honesty.
Prof GD Agarwal is again on fast unto dealth demanding the free flow of the Ganga water. Can the government afford to cancel the hydro power projects?
I am a great supporter of free flow and purity of the Ganga water and the religious sanctity behind it but the work of hydropower projects should continue without affecting the free flow and purity of the Ganga. The question of cancellation of the hydropower projects should not arise.