Hectic political activity and speculation galore that the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna was on the way out seems to have taken a toll on the already very slow pace of development activities in the disaster-hit hill State.
When asked to comment on the issue, Mr. Bahuguna on Wednesday said that ‘all is well’.
Highly-placed ruling Congress sources revealed that the Finance Minister Indira Hirdeyesh, Food and Civil Supplies Minister Pritam Singh and the Agriculture Minister Harak Singh Rawat were in close touch with their mentors in Delhi to be in a position to bag the top job as a change of guard was imminent after an internal assessment revealed that the Congress was bound to lose all the five Lok Sabha seats in the State unless a person capable of delivering results and connecting to the masses was made Chief Minister immediately.
“It is better to undertake preventive surgery than go in for a change after losing the Lok Sabha seats in the coming general polls,” observed a senior Minister.
Mantri Prasad Naithani, School Education Minister, an Independent MLA and chairman of the seven-member ruling coalition partner Progressive Democratic Front said that a change of guard was an internal matter of the Congress.
“We will continue to support the Congress Government irrespective of who was Chief Minister as the support is to the party and not any individual,” Mr. Naithani said. This is a major shift in the PDF stand as it had recently threatened to pull out of the coalition if Mr. Bahuguna was removed.
Another major contender for the top job is the Union Minister Harish Rawat who is believed to be under pressure from his group of MLAs to stake a claim if Mr. Bahuguna was to be replaced.
Senior Congress MLA and Planning Minister Dinesh Aggarwal said that he was also hearing about the speculations. “Such things are decided by the high command and I am in no position to comment,” he said.
In the din, there is a group of senior congressmen who want Rahul Gandhi to immediately decide on who will be the next State Congress president, as Yashpal Arya had resigned from the post several weeks ago.
The party needs to have a strong party president and Chief Minister if Congress is to take on the rising popularity of the Bharatiya Janata Party, they said.
Several party men at the Congress Bhawan in Dehradun expressed grave concern over the massive disappointment amongst the masses as the Government had failed to provide even the basic necessities of proper shelter, food, medicine and education to the mid June deluge and landslides victims.
Sushila Negi, a social activist in Dehra Dun, wondered why the Government was unable to reach out to the suffering masses in disaster-hit areas of Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Pithoragarh, Tehri and Bageshwar.
“The marginal relief given to the disaster victims will not help them fight the biting cold months and it would be wise to once again call in the armed forces to provide safety from the wrath of the winters before it is too late’, she said.