‘Pushkar Singh Dhami is the striker to score the goal for BJP’

Rajya Sabha MP Anil Baluni defends multiple changes at the helm in Uttarakhand ahead of Assembly polls

Rajya Sabha MP Anil Baluni who is also the national media head for the BJP, speaks on the upcoming Assembly elections in Uttarakhand, the reasons for multiple changes of chief ministers in the State and denies any schisms within the party.

The BJP changed three CMs in Uttarakhand within a year. In what way is it a good message going into the polls?

The changes in chief minister reflect our thinking that like in football whoever is close to the goal post is given the pass. Thus Trivendra Singh Rawat passed the ball to Pushkar Singh Dhami and he will be the striker to score the goal. Whatever is required for the State of Uttarakhand and its welfare will be done.

There were issues like the Devasthanam Board Act that had hurt feelings in the State but that hasn’t been reversed yet.

In Trivendra Rawat ji’s time we had set up the Devasthanam Board, we have the chardham in Uttarakhand and in Devbhoomi (abode of the gods — a term that refers to Uttarakhand) there were many such religious places. But we found that there was some uneasiness among the pandas and purohits in these places of worship. They are our brothers and part of our society and, therefore, we took them on board and set up a committee, under the leadership of our senior leader and MP, Manohar Kant Dhyaniji to review the Act, to address all the objections to the Board.

When Tirath Singh Rawat was appointed chief minister, wasn’t the fact that he would need to fight a bypoll for the Assembly taken into account? Why then was he removed?

When he was made chief minister, there was a little more than a year left for the term of the Assembly. But circumstances intervened in the form of the second wave of COVID19 when bypolls or any other elections were not being held and thus such a decision had to be taken.

Bypolls have been held for West Bengal and other Assemblies; couldn’t polls have been held in Uttarakhand, for one seat?

At that particular time (when Tirath Singh Rawat quit) there was no prospect of polls being held and as more and more days were going and Assembly elections were looming, we had to take the decision that we did.

The big regional rivalry in Uttarakhand is said to be Kumaon Vs Garhwal. Now with a chief minister from Kumaon, it is said that there is widespread resentment in the Garhwal area, considered a stronghold for the BJP.

I myself am from Garhwal along with Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank as well as several other senior leaders of the BJP. Thus I can tell you there is no such resentment. This can be a subject for media speculation, but not the actual situation on the ground.

BJP has started something called the Assam Model where its not necessary that the chief minister under whom the party wins an election to be repeated. Its being said that the same might be repeated for Uttarakhand.

What is decided later is a matter for the party, but the fact is that the captain of our team is Pushkar Singh Dhami and our entire team is fighting alongside him. State unit chief Madan Kaushik will lead the party and Dhamiji will lead the government. Our goal is to win the polls.

Through these chief ministerial changes what do you think is the achievement of the government that you will go to the people with?

The Uttarakhand government under BJP has zero tolerance for corruption and its our record that no allegation of corruption has been laid against our door. This is a big departure from what was there under the Harish Rawat government of the Congress. Under the Congress, there was politics of appeasement in this Devbhoomi; then chief minister Harish Rawat used to visit the holy shrines of only one particular community and instituted the Jumma holiday. When the BJP came to power we made sure we took every community along and ended the politics of appeasement. Our government provides ₹1/litre water in the State and has covered every household under the Atal Ayushman Yojana. Uttarakhand is the first State where women have equal rights to property.

The Haridwar Kumbh saw a big scam with regard to fake testing and other controversies, will this affect your prospects?

You people unfairly compared the Prayag Kumbh to the Hardwar Kumbh. The scam of testing that you are talking about was not at the level that its been portrayed, there were some issues but the government is dealing with it.

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