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Straight fight between Congress and BJP, AAP stands no chance: Uttarakhand Congress campaign committee chairman Harish Rawat

The APN News team has talked to the Uttarakhand Congress campaign committee chairman Harish Rawat on various issues related to their party campaign, strategay, CM face and possibility of winning the state which is schedule to vote February 14.



Harish Rawat

By Vikram Kilpady and Sanjay Raman Sinha

Uttarakhand will vote on February 14 in a single phase. APN News caught up with Congress campaign committee chairman Harish Rawat, a former chief minister and former union minister, on the day the party put out its list of candidates.

Question: How ready is the Congress for elections in the state?

Answer: The party will put out a list of chosen candidates shortly, we have chosen people and all preparations are on.

Question: What are the issues for the this time?

Answer: Development (vikas) is a big issue, it is lying dead. The slogan of double engine growth et al has failed miserably. People have been left to die during the coronavirus pandemic, there is no medicine, no beds or oxygen. The Kumbh testing scam has become a matter of international shame. Now people say the Kumbh is the biggest superspreader. I am extremely sad to hear it. The failure on all fronts lies with the state government.

It is sad that Uttarakhand tops the country on unemployment statistics. There are 28,000 vacant posts in government. When I was in government, I created 32,000 jobs, they haven’t done even 3,200 jobs.

Apart from unemployment, the rise in prices of commodities are hurting people. The LPG cylinder has gone beyond Rs 1000, petrol is expensive touching Rs 100, cooking oil price has gone skyhigh. Where is the money going? Ambani and Adani are getting rich while the poor are worse off. Poverty has risen along with the increase in prices.

The BJP has created political instability in the state. In Congress time, we had three chief ministers, the BJP has seen eight CMs. Both parties have had similar terms in power. This kind of instability has hit development and the aspirations of the people of the state.

Question: What is the essence of Uttarakhandiyat that you have used in the campaign this time?

Answer: Mandua (hill crops including millet), ganna (sugarcane) and shilp (crafts) are intrinsic to Uttarakhand’s syncretic culture. There is an element of modern farming against ancient subsistence on hill crops and crafts. The essence of Uttarakhandiyat is that these three need to be developed for people to grow in consonance with the state’s ethos.

How will you combat migration and exodus from the state?

Migration has been on for the last 25-30 years. The Congress has invested in education so that people migrate with education and not as helpless labourers flocking the cities for low-paid work. The exodus of recent times is due to lack of jobs and due to poverty. We will ensure people have economic alternatives to stay on in the state like millet and grain production.

Will the Congress follow one ticket for one family stance?

In politics, family has become important now unlike earlier when politics was based on principle and ideology. People in the family help you stay focused on minute issues. Yes, party workers also need to be recognised for their work. The party keeps a fine balance to meet aspirations of all groups of people.

Will the Congress welcome late CDS Gen Bipin Rawat’s daughter into the party? Gen Rawat’s brother has got a BJP ticket.

We will welcome Gen Rawat’s daughter. I am devastated by the decision of the late General’s brother to join the BJP. Gen Rawat is a well-respected name in Uttarakhand. His father Lachchu Singh Rawat was a Congress minded person. He’s intrinsic to the ethos of Uttarakhand but joining the BJP despoils that legacy.

Your son and daughter are also looking for tickets this time?

My son and daughter have worked hard in places where only the BJP has won. They have done well. The decision is for the party to take, we will abide.

How does the return of Harak Singh Rawat impact the party and you? We’ve heard he is pushing for getting tickets allotted for his camp?

There is room in the party for constructive leadership and thought. Hope Harak Singh Rawat, who is like a younger brother to me, has seen things evolve over time. Ambition is not a bad thing in politics but it needs managing and packaging for when it can be fully channelised. He has not been pushing hard.

Are you the Congress’s Uttarakhand CM face?

The party leadership will decide these things and I will welcome the decision whatever it is. Even if opposition leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi are attacking me as the lone Congress target, I am thankful. Leading the campaign itself has been an award of sorts for me.

A few weeks ago you seemed to be disappointed with things and tweeted about your unhappiness with the way things are.

We learn a lot from experience. I can say there is no bad blood. I did think I should retire but am not looking for options outside the Congress. I’m a Nehru Gandhi family loyalist and will remain one till I die. Instead of speaking internally, I chose to tweet it as a senior party worker so that the party can evaluate the situation and it was my duty to do so.

What went wrong in Punjab? There was talk of a revolt by MLAs.

The party had given Captain Amarinder Singh a lot of room to fix things. After the sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib things became acute, the MLAs were on the verge of a revolt. Captain came twice, met the leadership, spoke and left for Punjab assuring of fixing things. Nothing happened. Over 40 MLAs said they can’t head into election year with him in charge. We called a CLP meeting. Instead of attending the CLP meet or finding out the reasons for the MLAs’ unhappiness, he chose to meet the Governor and submit his resignation. The Congress put its weight and faith in him but under whose and what influence, he chose to do what he did is visible now.

What do you make of the Aam Aadmi Party’s foray into Uttarakhand?

There is no room for AAP in Uttarakhand. The straight fight is between the BJP and the Congress. They may cut votes here and there. With such strong anti-incumbency against the BJP, the Congress will be the option people turn to.

What if you need AAP in a post-poll scenario to keep the BJP out?

We will win, Congress will keep the BJP out. AAP has to work hard (kayi saari pappad belne padenge). The differences and the milieu of Uttarakhand has to be internalised and understood by AAP and that will take time. Whatever it is, Delhi is a large municipality. You set out in the morning from one end, you can get home by the end of the day. Uttarakhand is a different beast. There are some districts where from one end to another will take a week or more given the uneven terrain. I have taken days to tour districts when I was a Lok Sabha MP.

What about the eternal Congress bugbear, factionalism?

I am lucky to be in a party which has so many talented people who have the interest of the people at heart. They will have their influence and following. But calling that factionalism is highly unfair. People who have influence want justice done to their aspirations and what they bring to the table.

The BJP has launched a powerful campaign on what it has done like the Kedarnath project etc and all-weather roads. What do you say to that?

It is wrong of the BJP to claim credit for all-weather roads. My government sent the proposal to make all-weather roads. Not BJP, it is a sin to claim false credit. Similarly, the Rishikesh-Karn Prayag railine which the BJP is tom-tomming was already a part of the Manmohan Singh government’s projects and budgeted for. The same with Tanakpur-Bageshwar line. Sonia Gandhi couldn’t come, so then Defence Minister A.K. Antony inaugurated it. Work began under the UPA but BJP came to power after that.

Another fact which is not well-known is about Mangalyaan. Manmohan Singh didn’t go ahead with its launch though it was up and ready. He took a principled stand that it should be launched after the elections. But PM Modi took credit for it. Same with the Banihal tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir and the longest-span bridge in Assam. All are Congress projects. So if the BJP is claiming credit for all this, the claim is as true as the one where it was said everyone will get Rs 15 lakh.

What do you think about the Haridwar hate speech incident?

Haridwar is a centre of faith, people take a dip in the cold Ganga there. The gods rained immortal nectar (amrit) here because of that. But why should such a centre of religion be used to make statements threatening to shoot Manmohan Singh, Gandhiji and threaten genocide of Muslims in a dharam sansad. The state government failed to take cognisance of the hate speech. Everyone including Akhara Parishad leaders have said such hate speech is wrong. Haridwar is a brand and shouldn’t be harmed like this.

What is the Congress agenda for Uttarakhand?

Health and welfare matters demand urgency. We need people to get their due pensions and employment has to be generated keeping in mind the requirements of development. We have campaigned hard this time with slogans like vote Congress to power at the Centre and the state to bring cooking gas prices below Rs 500. We have also promised gas subsidy.

Would the decision to douse the Amar Jawan Jyoti and merge it with the flame of the National War Memorial be a valid poll issue this time?

Eminently sad decision by the BJP government. It has been done without consultation and not taking veterans on board. It is about martyrs and we have to respect that. But what has happened is shocking.

India News

AAP leader Sanjay Singh accuses BJP of planning an attack on Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal

The AAP leader accused PM Modi and the BJP of being immersed in hatred so much that they are conspiring to kill the Delhi Chief Minister. He added that the Prime Minister Office, BJP and PM Modi will be responsible if anything happens to Kejriwal.



Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sanjay Singh on Monday accused BJP of planning an attack on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Singh was addressing a press conference in New Delhi where he said the BJP has been in a state of panic ever since Arvind Kejriwal came out of jail.

He said BJP is now plotting to launch a deadly attack on Arvind Kejriwal. This conspiracy is being conducted directly from the Prime Minister’s Office. A threat of attack on Kejriwal ji has been written at Rajiv Chowk and Patel Nagar Metro stations.

The AAP leader accused PM Modi and the BJP of being immersed in hatred so much that they are conspiring to kill the Delhi Chief Minister. He added that the Prime Minister Office, BJP and PM Modi will be responsible if anything happens to Kejriwal. He pointed out that Kejriwal had not been given insulin for 23 days when he was in judicial custody in Tihar jail.

Singh said a 3 time elected chief minister is being openly threatened with attacks and murder, and nobody is saying anything. He said AAP leaders are writing letters to the Election Commission and if Kejiriwal gets a scratch, the PMO, BJP and PM Modi will be held responsible.

The Supreme Court has given interim bail to the Aam Aadmi Party supremo till June 1 ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in New Delhi. But according to the terms of his bail, the Delhi chief minister cannot make any comments about his role in the Delhi liquor scam case.

 Kejriwal has spent over 50 days in Tihar Jail the Enforcement Directorate arrested him in an excise policy case on March 21, days after the election schedule for the general elections was announced. The bail is applicable until June 1 and Kejriwal has to surrender to authorities on June 2.

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2024 Lok Sabha Elections

36.73% voter turnout recorded till 1 pm in 5th phase of the Lok Sabha elections

36.73% voter turnout recorded till 1 pm in 8 states and UTs; Maharashtra continues to put up a poor show



Voter turnout at 1 pm was recorded at 36.73% for the 5th phase of the Lok Sabha elections. As this unfolds, significant political showdowns are set to take place across eight states and union territories. Bihar: 34.62%, Jharkhand: 41.89%, Jammu and Kashmir: 34.79%, Maharashtra 27.78%, Ladakh: 52.01%, Uttar Pradesh 39.55%, Odisha 35.31%, West Bengal: 48.41%

Voters in 49 Lok Sabha seats will decide the fate of 695 candidates, with many high-stakes contests featuring political dynasties and senior leaders striving to retain their influence. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is contesting from Raebareli, a seat held by his mother, Sonia Gandhi, since 2004. He is also contesting the election from Wayanad in Kerala. After losing Amethi to Union Minister Smriti Irani in 2019, the Congress has fielded dedicated worker KL Sharma to challenge Irani this time.

Rohini Acharya, daughter of former Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, makes her political debut from Saran Lok Sabha seat. Chirag Paswan of the LJP (Ram Vilas) aims to retain the legacy of his late father, Ram Vilas Paswan from Hajipur Lok Sabha seat.

13 out of 48 parliamentary seats in Maharashtra are undergoing elections including high-profile candidates: Dindori: Union Minister Bharati Pravin Pawar (BJP) vs. Bhaskar Bhagare (NCP). Dhule: BJP’s Subhash Ramrao Bhamre vs. Congress’s Shobha Dinesh Bachhav.

Palghar: Hemant Vishnu Savara (BJP) vs. Bharti Kamadi (Shiv Sena UBT). Nashik: Rajabhau Waje (Shiv Sena UBT) vs. Godse Hemant Tukaram (Shiv Sena). This election phase will also serve as a crucial battleground for the factions of Shiv Sena to measure their support among voters.

In Ladakh, an independent candidate is posing a significant challenge to both BJP and Congress contenders. Simultaneous assembly and Lok Sabha polls are taking place in Odisha with the fifth phase, covering 5 Lok Sabha seats and 35 assembly constituencies. Voters in 3 parliamentary Lok Sabha seats — Chatra, Koderma, and Hazaribagh—will cast their votes in this phase.

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India News

IMD issues red alert for heavy rainfall in Kerala

The IMD issued a red alert for the districts of Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki, and Alappuzha, warning residents and authorities about the potential for further heavy rains.



The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a red alert for four districts in Kerala till May 21, after heavy pre-monsoon rainfall swept across the southern state on Sunday. The intense downpours affected numerous regions, including the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram. 

Considering the severe weather conditions, the IMD issued a red alert for the districts of Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki, and Alappuzha, warning residents and authorities about the potential for further heavy rains.

The weather department has also issued an orange alert in the districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, and Malappuram until May 22, forecasting isolated heavy to very heavy rainfall .

A bulletin issued by the IMD on Sunday stated that strong westerly and south-westerly winds are expected to dominate the lower levels of the state from May 19 to 23. This weather pattern is likely to result in widespread rainfall across isolated areas of Kerala from May 19 to 22. Additionally, heavy to very heavy rainfall is anticipated in isolated regions on May 23.

Given the potential hazards posed by heavy rains, the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) has urged residents to remain vigilant. The forecasted heavy rainfall over a short period raises concerns about flash floods and urban waterlogging, especially in low-lying areas. It is reported that prolonged rainfall may also lead to landslides. Consequently, authorities advised residents, particularly those in hilly and coastal regions, to exercise caution and stay alert.

Reportedly, stringent directives have been issued to the District Superintendent of Police, Sub Divisional Magistrates, Regional Transport Officers, and Tehsildars to enforce a ban on tourist movements.

Meanwhile, after the Sunday rains visuals across social media showed houses and shops in some areas were inundated. Additionally, canals traversing the capital city and its suburbs have overflowed. Affected residents claimed that the waterlogging in the capital and surrounding areas resulted from the failure to conduct pre-monsoon cleaning of canals and drainage systems.

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