Vijay Bhakuni is the youngest candidate to contest election from BSP in Uttarakhand elections which are scheduled to be held in 2017. Jinendra Parakh, Executive Editor (Analysis) converse with Varun Bhakuni to know about his journey so far and future political plans.
1. A brief introduction for our readers.
I am 27 years old and contesting the 2017 Legislative Assembly Elections, as a BSP candidate, from the Kaladhungi Assembly Constituency (60) which falls within the District of Nainital in the State of Uttarakhand.
I completed my primary and secondary education at St. Joseph’s and Sherwood Colleges, Nainital. I hold an MBA in International Business from Amity University and am currently reading for a degree in Law from Kumaon University,Nainital. While pursuing my higher education at Amity I completed two semester exchange programs in London and Singapore respectively. I have been working in the field of housing development since graduation.
2. What is that one reason that motivated you to join politics?
To a certain extent it can be said that politics runs in my blood, my grandparents were freedom fighters, my father is a politician and an activist, and as such I did not have to look too far for inspiration. However, a lot of people ask me why I joined politics despite my educational background, which is a tad bit distressing because people have come to think that politics is an avenue only for the under educated and corrupt. But this needs to change, more people need to realise that by being armchair cynics you are neither benefiting your society nor your nation.
I come from one of the most beautiful states in India, called the Dev Bhoomi (the land of gods), but a series of anthropomorphic activities have led to unprecedented natural disasters engulfing the state. The elected representatives seem to be beyond reproach, there is a stark absence of sane voices in our Assembly, at least none which understand the geographic and environmental importance of this land. Someone needs to represent the voices of the underrepresented people in the State Assembly. These underrepresented people are not just the Dalits and backward classes, but each and every young person being forced to migrate to bigger cities for employment, and every single person suffering the consequences of unsustainable development wrought upon our people by the earlier Congress and BJP regimes.
Moreover, I am extremely grateful to Mayawatiji for being such a champion of youth rights and for showing faith in me, hence, inferentially in the younger generation as well. It goes on to show her and her party’s progressive vision for the youth of the nation and I believe that other national parties would do well to emulate her example.
3. Uttarakhand has emerged as the top state in the country in terms of growth in the industry and service sectors in the last ten years, says an Assocham study. What is your opinion on this report issued by Assocham?
I am glad that the study conducted by ASSOCHAM reached this conclusion, but as a student of business studies, I can safely say that sometimes figures, numbers, and percentages represent a superficial growth story. The indices for measure are chosen at random. If the top 1% of the population benefits from all the growth in the state and the bottom 99% does not, the figures show a lopsided growth story. If you actually conduct qualitative studies in these areas, you will realise that the benefits of this ‘growth’ are not reaching the poorer sections of the society.
Uttarakhand is following a very dangerous path to development, one where the most fertile of lands in India have been given to the big industries at the cost of pennies. Initially the locals thought that SIDCUL and the factories established in Bhimtal (under N.D. Tiwari) would eliminate the problem of unemployment in the area. But the youth suffered more, firstly, because our youth have absolutely no access to job-oriented educational institutions and secondly, because companies relocate their labor force from elsewhere rather than spending money in skill development of the locals. The people of this state always lose out.
The fruits of development, if any, are never for them, instead, the state is becoming more and more environmentally fragile. An analysis of the figures mentioned in that ASSOCHAM study depict a hyper growth rate in mining and quarrying activities as compared to extremely negligible growth rate in agriculture, which illustrates that this development is happening at the cost of the environment. This just leads me to blame the Congress and the BJP, not just as a candidate for BSP, but as a resident of this state who has seen the catastrophes from very close.
4. What are your plans for Kaldhungi constituency? Will you please elaborate that which all sectors you would be focusing during your election campaign?
If you ever visit the Kaladhungi constituency, you will be compelled to agree with the statement that it is one of the greenest and most beautiful constituencies of the state. The place can be developed into a hub of organic farming and an eco-friendly tourist destination considering its closeness to Corbett National Park and Nainital. My biggest priority, however, is to realise the potential of the place and the people by focusing on employment and job-oriented education for young people, by ensuring clean water, roads and electricity to the forlorn and poor areas of the constituency, which coincidentally are also areas inhabited by the backward classes and the poorest people in my constituency. I will not be limiting my focus to a particular group of people, I aim to reach out to each and every section of the society and represent and address their worries, if I can. The issue of brain drain from this region also needs to be addressed, people have to be given reasons to stay back if they want to, and for that opportunities have to be created for the people of the region. As I mentioned earlier, there is tremendous scope for agriculture and I plan on employing successful techniques adopted abroad to get the best results out of our land.
5. Uttarakhand was in the news due to Presidential rule. What is your stake on the complete issue that took place in Uttarakhand?
In my opinion, the events surrounding the Presidential Rule were a shame on democracy. The Presidential Rule might have been a wrong move but it brought to light the absolutely condemnable and disgusting nature of politicians from the Congress and BJP. The buying and selling of elected representatives as was revealed through the sting operations was a brazen move by the Congress. They should have gracefully resigned and let the due process of elections run its course as elections were supposed to be held in 2017 anyway. But as is for everyone to see, both Congress and BJP only want to hold on to power and milk the system for their own benefit and the masses get nothing.
6. There are problems like illegal sale of liquor, electricity and water supply in kaladhungi constituency. What all steps you will take to ensure basic facilities to the people of Kaladhungi?
The liquor problem in our state has rendered a lot of young and old men unhealthy and unemployable. This has led to degradation in societal values as well. Every social evil is linked to another; the cycle needs to be stopped. Illegal sale of liquor will be completely bunged if I am chosen as the people’s representative.
Moreover, as you rightly pointed out, the people of my constituency are struggling with basic necessities like water and electricity. Our state produces so much power but most of it is sold to other states, our people somehow are never prioritised. It is a pity that the affluent people in the area can afford to get water but the poorer areas have little to no access to clean water, which has led to a crisis. These are issues of absolute basic necessities; we are living in the 21st century, with India itching to be a global super power, is this how we will tackle the needs of our population, with no water and no electricity?I have some ideas and resourceful friends who can help with rain water harvesting and proper channeling of water sources so that the ground water is replenished in the region, but I can only do all this once I have the position to put these ideas to use
7. What are your plans for empowering the dalits and people from weaker section of the society?
They are still the most marginalised sections of the society. Despite India’s progressive efforts, not a lot has changed on the ground. The society needs to be a more cohesive group and needs to realise that only when the most marginalised sections bode well will the society be called a healthy, developed, modern, and progressive society. On my regular rounds in the Kaladhungi constituency I have noticed the terrible housing conditions of the dalits and backward classes.
They need to be provided with proper houses, toilets, water, and electricity. It is abhorrent that we as a society continue to bear with the abject poverty some of our people face. A lot of this is because most of the funds that comes for the yojanas, schemes, and plans for the poor are put to use under completely different and less useful projects. If the representatives manage their developmental budgets and funds right, the people can be uplifted out of abject poverty. That is what I am here to do.
Analysis wishes you best of luck for your future endeavors!
Interview reported by: Jinendra Parakh, Executive Editor (Analysis)