Aware that the outcome of general elections will have a direct bearing on Uttarakhand’s politics, both Congress Chief Minister Harish Rawat and his rivals in the State BJP are pulling out all the stops as they know the State might face political instability if the BJP-led NDA forms the government at the Centre.
Mr. Rawat, who took charge just three months ago, is singlehandedly spearheading the Congress campaign. With his bête noire and Pauri Garhwal MP Satpal Maharaj joining hands with the BJP, the political tussle in the State might intensify once the elections are over. Though Mr. Rawat is confident of his government’s survival even if the BJP manages to form the government at the Centre, he, has been asking the electorate to judge his work and not blame him for the poor performance of his predecessor Vijay Bahuguna.
“I am asking people to consider whatever development work I have been able to do since I took over as the Chief Minister … Be it the road construction work, pushing relief and rehabilitation work in disaster-hit areas or starting new projects, I have been able to fast-track it. People now have to judge for themselves,” he told The Hindu.
However, one of his close aides concedes that political temperatures in the State would rise after May 16. “If the BJP forms the government at the Centre, Mr. Maharaj along with other State BJP leaders will try and topple Mr. Rawat’s government. But we are ready for it … We have made Mr. Rawat’s performance our poll plank. If the government falls, we will seek people’s mandate on the work done by Mr. Rawat,” he adds.
In the 70-member legislature, the Congress has 33 MLAs, BJP 30, BSP and Independents three each and the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal one. The seven non-Congress, non-BJP MLAs have formed a bloc, which has been supporting the Congress. But reports now say that they are not happy with the Congress and might rethink their support to the party. Notably, two BSP MLAs have been suspended from the party, though they continue to support Mr. Rawat’s government.
“But the real threat to the government might come from within the Congress as Mr. Maharaj’s wife, Amrita Rawat, is a senior Minister in the Congress government, who, along with at least three party MLAs and one independent, might resign if Narendra Modi is able to form government at the Centre,” a senior Congress leader says. However, Ms. Rawat has so far distanced herself from her husband’s decision to quit the Congress and join the BJP.
On the other hand, BJP leaders say the Congress government would fall on its own as it never had the mandate to rule the State. “This government is full of contradictions … It has failed miserably on all fronts and has been a let-down when it comes to providing relief to those affected by last year’s flash floods and ensuring all-round development of the State. Public pressure will force them to call it quits soon,” the former BJP Chief Minister, B.C. Khanduri, who is contesting from Pauri Garhwal, told The Hindu.