Former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat has given rise to conjectures among the political circles with his recent statement at ‘Parivartan Yatra’ rally hinting at pulling out of the chief ministerial race.
Speaking at a ‘Parivartan Yatra’ rally on Monday, Rawat said he would like to see a Dalit chief minister in Uttarakhand adding that Dalits constitute about 18 percent of the state’s population.
The statement comes a few days after Punjab Congress scripted history by electing a Dalit as CM of the state. “Congress has made history not only in Punjab but in the whole of north India by making the son of a woman who had made and dried cow dung cakes all her life a chief minister. “When the new chief minister of Punjab was talking about his humble family background at a press conference, it brought us all to tears,” Rawat, who is also the AICC in charge of Punjab Congress, said.
Thanking both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi for making the son of a Dalit the chief minister of Punjab, he said such moments come rarely in history but when they do they become examples worth following and also expressed his desire to see a Dalit as the chief minister of the hill state in his lifetime.
“It’s less important what the size of Dalits voters are today. More important is how long they have helped Congress remain in power. We will repay them if the opportunity comes. I want to assure them that Congress will move to fulfill their expectations,” added Rawat at the rally who is the head of the state Congress’ election campaign committee.
Being the tallest Congress leader in Uttarakhand, his remarks came as a surprise to many who viewed him as a front-runner for the CM’s post in the event of the party returning to power in the hill state in 2022.
The reason for this stance was attributed by the former CM to the fear of being caught in a web of conspiracies.
“Like Abhimanyu in Mahabharat, I may be caught in a web of conspiracies. I will contest only if the party high command wants me to do so,” Rawat said. “I don’t want any controversy in the party because of me. I did not contest even in 2002, 2007, and 2012. This time I want to work similarly to 2002.” Rawat has said last week before leaving for Delhi.
Meanwhile, Congress leaders in the state are unwilling to take his remarks on face value. They say that while the Congress high command may want to project a younger face in Uttarakhand, Rawat remains the best bet. They say, the former CM is not known to reveal his plans therefore, it would be premature to conclude that Rawat is out of the chief ministerial race.
The Congress leaders also claim that Rawat’s Dalit CM statement will also work towards pushing the BJP on the defensive which has been on the lookout to seek Dalit, tribal, and OBC votes.
The BJP however has dismissed the suggestions saying that Rawat’s Dalit CM statement is self-contradictory and the party does not practice what it preaches.
“None other than Rawat himself said in Punjab that their newly-appointed Dalit CM will not be the face for the upcoming assembly elections. It’s nothing but a ploy to attract voters and counter AAP, which may eat into Congress votes in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. The Congress party will forget Dalits right after the elections.” state BJP spokesperson Manbir Chauhan said.