Many still in New Delhi to seek ‘justice' from Sonia

The simmering discontent within the ruling Congress resurfaced once again with 17 out of the 32 newly-elected party MLAs in Uttarakhand not participating in the oath-taking ceremony in the Vidhan Sabha on Thursday. Among them are two belonging to the rebel group led by Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Agriculture Harish Rawat.

Although they can take the oath anytime before Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna moves the confidence motion on March 28, their not doing so on Thursday is seen as a move to build up pressure and avoid a party whip till the last moment for obvious reasons. The vote-on-account will be sought on March 29.

However, a senior leader says the rebels, numbering 15 or 17, could not form a separate group or cross the floor under the law, and this is what goes in favour of the Chief Minister at the moment.

The rebels kept away from Dehra Dun even after Mr. Harish Rawat announced in New Delhi on Wednesday that his group of MLAs supported Mr. Bahuguna and that he would toe the party line and respect the sentiments of AICC chief Sonia Gandhi.

Causing annoyance to the high command, a good number of rebels are still camping in New Delhi to seek ‘justice' from Ms. Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi. Insiders say this is game plan-II of the Harish Rawat camp, which wants to either displace Mr. Bahuguna or at least secure plum jobs.

The former Leader of the Opposition, Harak Singh Rawat, on Wednesday came on television saying Mr. Bahuguna's government would be short-lived and that he might never face the Assembly for want of numbers.

Reacting to the rebel outbursts, Mr. Bahuguna said there would be no witch-hunting as people sometimes did say things, which they did not mean, in frenzy.

Laughing away speculation, Pritam Singh, who belongs to the Harish Rawat camp, said many MLAs could not come to the oath-taking ceremony as they were informed only late Wednesday evening. “It is not possible to reach Dehra Dun from remote areas of Garhwal or Kumaon or from Delhi at such short notice,” he said adding the Congress was united. The Protem Speaker had asked the absentees to come to his chamber and take oath anytime, said Mr. Pritam Singh

All 31 Bharatiya Janata Party members, three of the Bahujan Samaj Party, three independents and the lone Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (P) member took the oath. It was a day of great joy for the 27 first timers.

Earlier, Governor Margaret Alva swore in Shailender Mohan Singhal as Protem Speaker.

A BJP delegation including the former Chief Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, and the former Speaker, Harbans Kapoor, went to Raj Bhavan to register their protest against the seniormost member not being appointed Protem Speaker.