Alarm bells for Congress in Uttarakhand as Rawat supporters rebel

Dehradun : With reports that union minister of state Harish Rawat, front runner for the post of chief minister of Uttarakhand, had tendered his resignation from the ministerial post, on not being put at the helm of affairs in the state, has set alarm bells ringing for the Congress party.

Even as Vijay Bahuguna has taken oath as the new chief minister of Uttarakhand Harish Rawat has sounded a note of rebellion against the party high command for ignoring him. The 16 supporters supporting him for the chief ministerial assignment, who are camped at his residence in Delhi have reportedly announced to boycott the swearing-in ceremony.

As last-minute efforts are being made by the senior Congress leaders to take stock of the newly developed situation before it reaches alarming proportions, to the extent of losing Uttarakhand to a BJP-dissidents combine government, political circles here were agog with rumours that the 16 MLAs supporting Harish Rawat were willing to go to any extent to see the former union minister of state at the helm of affairs.

Reports were that senior BJP leaders in Delhi had already got in touch with Rawat and his band of dissidents to explore the possibilities of forming the government in the state with their support. Should the 16 dissidents break away from the Congress party and float a new outfit with Rawat as its leader, it will reduce the strength of the Congress to 16 and with the support of three independents and three BSP and one UKD-P MLA just reach the figure of 23, well short of a simple majority.

But would Harsih Rawat go to this extent, of breaking away from the Congress and floating a new political outfit, is the question that has suddenly started doing the rounds. Even at the Congress headquarters here, there were hushed conversations as party members got together to discuss the latest development. However, the general feeling was that the crises would tide over.

Sources close to Rawat said that he was a loyal Congressman and had worked overtime for the success of the Congress in the recently held elections. Even when the party was short of the magic number of 36, having got just 32 seats, he was instrumental in reaching out to the independents, mostly party rebels, and bringing them back, they claimed.

They said that in 2002 also, Rawat was the front runner for the post of chief minister, but that time also the party high command had let him down by bringing in veteran leader Narayan Dutt Tiwari, which the former had agreed to, taking the experience and senirity of the latter into consideration. However, being left out this time also, despite having the numbers, to a junior partyman, has been the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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