Himachal Pradesh’s Chief Parliamentary Secretary, Rajesh Dharmani, feels that the most important duty of a legislature representative is to have no gap in thought, words and actions. He feels that a sensitive mind can find solutions and have empathy with people’s problems. And his engineering background helps him have a mindset that is naturally inclined towards finding solutions. A two-time elect to the Himachal Legislative Assembly from Ghumarwin constituency, Dharmani, in a free-wheeling interview with HimVani’s Varun Rattan Singh, talks about the responsibilities of a legislature representative and his work for his constituency. He also states as a matter of fact that the position of parliamentary secretaries should be scrapped.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
What are the roles and responsibilities of elected legislature representatives?
I think the most important duty of legislature representative is that there should be no gap between their thought, words and actions. And that has to be out dharma. By dharma I don’t mean religion, but as in the words of Vivekananda ji it is moral code of conduct, with which we can create a mind that can discriminate between injustice and justice. As a legislature representative, we should be able to build a society where an individual is honest and has a strong character. A society with strong character will lead to discipline, honesty and justice. Without these, no government can eliminate wrong-doing or corruption from the society.
The second duty of an elected legislature representative is to contribute in law making and coming up with good welfare schemes and eventually implementing them and evaluating them. The third, is to highlight the problems of the people to the government and come up with solutions. While most of the representatives contribute heavily to the second and the third duty, as they fetch them votes, but they do not contribute much to the first duty.
But then let’s look at it the other way around. What do voters expect from us? Their expectations are largely hinged on our third duty; and that doesn’t change the mindset. We often hear people saying about corrupt people, “Agar isne khaya to hamara thodi khaya, sarkaar ka khaya.” Even though many representatives have been caught red handed and have been conducted by the court, yet the people vote them back and they retain their positions. These representatives hardly bother about their conduct, even though that is the most important duty of the leader – to have an appropriate conduct.
So you feel you are contributing to your first duty as much you are to your second and third duty?
The second and third are dependent on the first. Without the first, there will not be good human beings and they will not be able to make a good contribution to the society.
So what all have been your key contributions in terms of your second and third duty?
I can rate myself 9.5 out of 10 for my first term. I took keen interest to learn and to contribute in Vidhan Sabha by raising certain issues. I think I had the privilege to raise maximum number of questions in previous term, and I moved certain resolutions. We examined many schemes in Vidhan Sabha committees and have conducted oral examinations of the secretaries and chief secretaries and HODs and have deep discussions. But, for this term, it is actually opposite to the role I played in my last term, as far as the second duty is concerned.
As a virtue of me being elected as the Chief Parliament Secretary, I can’t raise questions, I can’t move resolutions to discuss, I can’t take part in Vidhan Sabha committees, because I am not member of those committees. Though I am a part of the government, but we are kept out of that legislative part of our duty. All decisions are taken by the cabinet and we are not part of cabinet. We hardly have any prior access or any channel to contribute, to suggest certain things, so that we can take part in decision making. So at this time, my legislative contribution is almost zero. One contribution is there… I am part of the head count of the MLAs of majority party (Indian National Congress) that forms the government. But at personal level, as an MLA, I have not contributed anything to the decision making part.
This is something that we have been reading for the last two years. You have protested as well have resigned a number of times from your position…
Yes I have resigned number of times.
Many legislature representatives take this position as a perk…
Yes, may be, they have their personal reasons. But I took decisions. I resigned. I requested even senior Congress leaders — Sonia Gandhi ji , Rahul Gandhi ji and our party general secretary in-charge, Ambika Soni to accept my resignation because I am not able to contribute as a legislature representative.
Then why not seek dissolution of this post itself?
This should be scrapped. I openly accept that. There is no justification for appointment of parliament secretary and chief Parliament secretary. There was a ray of hope from this Aam Aadmi Party. They were doing idealistic talking and people voted them to power. But, funnily, they appointed 25 parliament secretaries. There is no job for them. But they have perks to enjoy. We have almost at par facilities with the ministers, but there is hardly any responsibility for us parliament secretaries.
But since you do not have much legislative business to do, you must be able to give more time to your constituency?
I am giving.
So what kind of achievements you have managed in Ghumarwin?
Let’s start from my previous term. Besides the big infrastructural works, I managed to open Central School, open Regional Agriculture Research Institute and got sanction for regional extension for Centre for Agriculture APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) pack-house. In this term, I am focusing on the overall development of my area and have got sanction for many schemes related to water supply, roads, bridges and other buildings and various other small work.
We are fortunate enough that our area is strategically located. After the four-laning of the Chandigarh-Manali Highway, Chandigarh will just be a one- and half-hour drive from Ghumarwin; and Manali, I think will take three hours from here. Simultaneously, the Shimla-Dharamshala National Highway too crosses our constituency. Una-Ner Chowk Road falls in outer limit of our constituency; and then the Ghumarwin-Sarkaghat Road is being built by the PWD Department and being funded by the World Bank. So the Ghumarwin constituency is a growth region for overall development.
I think, water sports and paragliding and some bit of trekking can also be developed?
We are already developing trekking routes and I have managed to get lakhs of funds. For example, the Jaswani Road… We have spent about Rs 10 lakh on the road in the previous two years. There are other trekking routes that we are developing with the help of the Forest Department. We will be undertaking water sports activities in Govind Sagar Lake and when the Kiratpur-Ner Chowk Road will be complete… I think, it will be a very beautiful road… It is just parallel to Govind Sagar Lake and we are focusing on a water sports activities along with paragliding and parasailing. Bandla can be a very good site for paragliding and parasailing.
So from being an engineer to a full time politician, how has your career moved?
I think my engineering background has helped me tremendously in giving a boost to my political career. If there is a problem, my mind immediately starts focusing on the solution. It is the engineer mindset. We should try to make this world a living place for all and not only for strong and wealthy people. The earth belongs to all – the living creatures as well as non-living things. I think, when we focus on solutions, we become sensitive; and when we become sensitive, we try to understand the needs of others, we try to understand the problems of others.
So many years in public life it must have been very difficult in managing your work-like balance. So who all do you have in family and what do they feel about your work?
My family is very supportive and I think with their support I am able to focus on my job. My parents are still holding family responsibilities. I can say that they are feeding us. Our breakfast and lunch is prepared by my mother. She enjoys this sends food for me. I have one daughter who’s studying in tenth class; and my wife… who is also very supportive
So they have no complaints?
Every politician’s family has complaints and not just one complaint.
Finally you are being honest on this issue.
Actually, we sometimes are not in a position to carry family responsibilities. We cannot give priority to even our family… even for my daughter sometimes.
So I guess another two and half years to go in this term, so what are your plans?
There are many things I want to do. I want to create a platform where a mentorship programme can be started where people like you can be a mentor for younger generation. I have a team of good students. I know many people who are capable they can help our younger a lot with their skills with their ideas and you know there are many well developed people in my constituency. But they hardly have any platform to share their experiences to motivate our younger brothers and sisters.
I manage many lectures for college students, for unemployed youth; but that is not in continuity and is not in an organized manner. That is my one thing that I want to do more effectively and in a more organized way.
It hurts me that there are many under-privileged students those are still not getting good education; they are not getting even good food or good clothes. They are children of poor widows, they are children of handicapped or are children of some drug-addict. I think we should collectively do something for them at a personal level or with the help of some like-minded people.
We have founded an NGO, Samvedna Charitable Society. We try to help these people. But I feel that we can do better and in a more organized way.
We also have to create awareness among our voters also. Many people come with demands without realizing that their demand could be illegal. They just have one thought in their mind that “We have voted this man into power and it his duty to get it done.” If I say this is immoral and this is illegal, they get annoyed. Even sometimes, if I I ask any official to help them and he shows his inability to do that because the work does not get covered under any rule or scheme, they propagate many things: “MlLA ne bola lekin officer ne nahi suna.” So we have to create awareness amongst our voters.
One final question before we wrap up… What is your take on the laal batti culture in our state?
I have never demanded for laal batti. I am personally against any type of batti culture and not just laal batti.
Thank you Mr Dharmani for your time and best wishes for your remaining term. We hope that you will fulfill the expectations of your voters once again.
Thank you very much.