Former Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Tirath Singh Rawat


New Delhi: The notion that Kumbh Mela led to the second Covid wave is ‘anti-nation’ and ‘anti-Hindutva’, said former Uttarakhand chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat, under whose watch the mega Hindu festival was organised.

“If the Kumbh was a super spreader, why were there so many Covid cases in Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab, Delhi-NCR? There was no Kumbh there,” said the former CM in an exclusive interview to ThePrint Thursday.

Rawat, who stepped down as CM earlier this month, said drawing the Covid connection to Kumbh was a conspiracy hatched by “some people … And it is these people who from the beginning are against this country and against Hindutva.”

This was a conspiracy and a plan to “badmouth” the Kumbh Mela and give it a bad name, Rawat asserted. A survey, however, revealed that two-thirds (68 per cent) of people in Uttarakhand thought it was wrong and irresponsible to organise the Kumbh.

“Even in Haridwar, at the peak of the second wave where the Kumbh took place, the cases were far less than Dehradun and other places in the state. Here, the cases only increased when migrants began coming back to the state”, said Rawat.

He also asserted that “no deaths” had taken place in Uttarakhand due to lack of oxygen even though five Covid patients died due to lack of oxygen in a private hospital in the state.

By mid-May, the state reported over 2.64 lakh active Covid cases.

Rawat, however, said his state had done better than even the national capital.

“Oxygen has gone from Uttarakhand to Delhi … Kejriwal asked us for oxygen. There was no shortage of oxygen in the state,” he said.

‘CM Pushkar Dhami like my younger brother’

constitutional crisis forced Rawat to resign as CM on 2 July, only four months after being elevated by his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Two days later, on 4 July, Pushkar Singh Dhami was appointed CM. At 45 years, Dhami is the youngest chief minister of Uttarakhand.

Rawat quit since he was not an elected MLA in the state. Under Article 164 (a) of the Constitution, a non-legislator may occupy a post in the council of ministers, including the office of the chief minister, only for six months. If he doesn’t get elected within this period, the Constitution says he “ceases to be a minister”.

On why he did not attempt to get elected to the assembly to retain his chief ministerial post, Rawat said polls could not be held due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He would have retained his post otherwise, he added.

“Many MLAs had written to me saying they were willing to give up their seat for me,” he told ThePrint.

With Uttarakhand assembly polls due to be held early next year, the former CM said he would be happy with “any choice” the central BJP leadership makes on the “CM face”.

On Pushkar Dhami, his successor, Rawat said, “Dhami is like my younger brother and a hard worker. I am sure under him, Uttarakhand will achieve great heights.”

On reports of infighting in the party — believed to be another reason for his removal as the CM — Rawat said there was “no truth” to such news, asserting that “all is fine”.

As for the ongoing Pegasus ‘hacking’ controversy, the senior BJP leader alleged this was something “the Congress had cooked up” because it had been rejected by the people and wanted an issue “to fight on”.

“Congress has no existence. They are now trying to come up with this (Pegasus). This is not an issue at all, there is no proof. There is absolutely no need for a probe on this. This is just a case of khisyaanii billii khambaa noche (an angry cat digs in her claws),” he said.

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