What tilted the balance in favour of Vijay Bahuguna

Dehradun : Vijay Bahuguna, son of the late Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, perhaps the most respected and popular leader of Uttarakhand, was amongst the back benchers in the reckoning for the post of chief minister. But his also being the brother of Rita Bahuguna Joshi, president Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee, where Rahul Gandhi campaigned intensively during the elections, brought him to the helm of affairs.

All along party sources and the media had placed Harish Rawat as the front runner. Closely behind were former minister Indira Hridesh and state Congress chief Yahspal Arya. Bahuguna was distant fourth and there were not too many who were willing to place a bet on this former judge of the Mumbai High Court who quit under controversial circumstances.

The jigsaw puzzle of how he managed to create the situation for his being anointed the chief minister was a matter of discussion. Reasons given include that the president of the Uttarakhand Congress Committee is from the Kumaon division and as such the post of chief minister should be given to a person from the Garhwal division, from where Bahuguna hails. (He contested and won from Tehri Lok Sabha seat).

Then the argument in his favour was that the Congress chief minister last year was from Kumaon and as such this time it should be from Garhwal, or it would send a wrong message to the people from Garhwal. Harish Rawat and Indira Hridesh are both from Kumaon, which went against them.

Initially the Congress high command was not in favour of having a sitting MP made the chief minister as it would entail two by-elections. One for the vidhan sabha seat, which would have to be vacated by a sitting MLA and one for the Lok Sabha seat which the MP would have to give up to become a member of the assembly. But this was resolved in Bahuguna’s favour.

It was argued that Dinesh Dhanai, an independent from Tehri was willing to resign from the vidhan sabha and offer his seat to Bahuguna, who is a sitting MP from Tehri and as such would win comfortably. No Congress MLA would have to resign. The other part of the argument was that renowned shooter Jaspal Rana, who is close to Congress icon Rahul Gandhi, and had left the BJP recently to join the Congress, would also be accommodated as the Congress candidate from the Tehri Lok Sabha seat.

But perhaps the most important was the lobbying done by his sister and Uttar Pradesh party chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi. During the recent elections in the state, Rahul spent a number of days campaigning for the party and Rita was always by his side, which brought the two leaders close. Using this proximity with Rahul, she was able to swing things in favour of her brother.

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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