Uttarakhand BJP falls into its own gimmick

Dehra Dun : Having initiated the rather ‘unethical practice’ of poaching upon the opposition MLAs to make way for their incumbent chief minister, the BJP, which lost an MLA earlier to a similar move by the Congress earlier, is now on tenterhooks as it feels that it may lose yet another legislator who will resign so that Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat can contest for the vidhan sabha.

Uttarakhand - BJP on  tenterhooks

It may be mentioned here that union water resources minister Harish Rawat was recently anointed the chief minister of Uttarakhand, following the rather unceremonious exit of Vijay Bahuguna, by the party high command, despite various tactical moves by the latter to save his chair. Now Rawat has six months to be elected to the vidhan sabha from the state.

The practice of having an opposition legislator resign to pave the way for the anointed chief minister to contest from the vidhan sabha was ironically started by the BJP itself. When Maj Gen (retd) B C Khanduri was made chief minister of Uttarakhand, the question doing the rounds was which BJP MLA will resign to make way for Khanduri to seek election to the vidhan sabha.

But rather than having a party MLA, resign, the BJP poached upon a legislator of the Congress. A fellow army general, Lt Gen (retd) TPS Rawat, who was Congress MLA from Dhumakot, resigned from his seat and paved the way for Khanduri to contest the election from the Dhumakor assembly segment. Needless to say, Khanduri who had replced Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ as chief minister, won.

But the BJP had to face the same music just after the 2012 vidhan sabha elections in this small hill state.  Rather than making a legislator the chief minister, the Congress decided that Tehri Lok Sabha member, Vijay Bahuguna would be made the chief minister. After being sworn in the key question was which party MLA will make way for the chief minister.

But the Congress, which had formed the government on the support of three BSP, one UKD and three independent MLAs, did not want to risk reducing the party’s numerical strength in the House and consequently decided to resort to the same gimmick that  the BJP had done earlier. Poach upon a BJP legislator, make him resign and have Bahuguna contest from the seat.

Though the BJP denied that any of its MLAs would give way and resign to pave way for Bahuguna to contest the election, history repeated itself. Kiran Mandal of the BJP, who had won from the Sitarganj assembly segment resigned from the vidhan sabha, much to the chagrin of the state BJP leaders and Bahuguna won in the by-election.

Realising that the Congress would again try to maintain its strength in the vidhan sabha and poach upon one of its legislators, the BJP is wary of the fact that with over three years to go its MLAs could be lured and is trying desperately to keep its flock together. In fact former chief minister B C Khanduri even issued a statement saying that any party MLA who resigned for Rawat to contest from the seat would have to face the music.

But as the saying goes, all is fair in love, war and politics and the fact that anything can happen in this small hill state where corruption is at an all time high, reports are that the Congress is not finding it hard to have a BJP MLA resign from his seat so that Rawat can contest from there, despite the stern warning issued by Khanduri.

If political circles here are to be believed, not one, but as many as three BJP MLAs are being approached by the state BJP to make way for Rawat. Indications are t5hat the state Congress leaders are looking for a safe seat for Rawat and in all likelihood it may be an MLA from Kumaon division of the state (Rawat also hails from this division) who is going to make the way easy for the chief minister to seek election to the vidhan sabha.

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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