Vijay Bahuguna of the Congress was sworn in Uttarakhand's seventh Chief Minister at a simple ceremony at the Parade Grounds here on Tuesday evening. The ceremony lasted only a few minutes as Mr. Bahuguna was the only one to take the oath of office.
Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Agriculture Harish Rawat — who was a strong contender for the job — is reported to have resigned in protest. His followers raised slogans against central observer Ghulam Nabi Azad at his New Delhi residence.
Present at the swearing in ceremony were Mr. Azad; the former Chief Minister, Narain Dutt Tiwari; Satpal Maharaj, MP; 11 Congress MLAs, including State Congress president Yashpal Arya; Mantri Prasad Naithani, an independent; former Bharatiya Janata Party Chief Ministers Ramesh Pokriyal Nishank and B.C. Khanduri; Mr. Bahuguna's sister and Uttar Pradesh State Congress president Rita Bahuguna, and brother Shekhar Bahuguna.
On a sticky wicket
The fact that only 11 of the 32 Congress legislators showed up indicates that Mr. Bahuguna is on a sticky wicket. He has the support of three Bahujan Samaj Party legislators, three independents and the lone Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (P) MLA. However, the grapevine has it that the three BSP MLAs could go with Mr. Harish Rawat if he tries to form a government with the help of his loyalists and support from the BJP.
Talking to reporters after the swearing-in ceremony, Mr. Bahuguna promised a strong government that would try and solve the problems of the masses. As for Mr. Harish Rawat's protest, he said it was a pressure tactic and the party was capable of resolving the issues that he and some others had raised.
However, Pradeep Tamta, MP from Almora, accused the Congress core group of deceiving Mr. Harish Rawat by first saying that the Chief Minister's job would go to an MLA and quietly choosing the Tehri MP at the eleventh hour. “We did not oppose the selection of N.D. Tiwari as Chief Minister in 2002 as he was a tall figure. But now Mr. Rawat has been superseded by a much junior person and we have the right to oppose injustice,” he said.
Mr. Tamta denied reports that Mr. Rawat was in touch with BJP president Nitin Gadkari. “All such talk is simply to malign Mr. Rawat and his well wishers,” he said.
The Leader of the Opposition in the last Assembly Harak Singh Rawat — another contender for the top job — said that the Bahuguna government would not last long. “He may never face the Assembly,” he said.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Ambika Soni hoped that Mr. Harish Rawat's followers would get over their disappointment soon.
“Everyone wants his leader to reach higher places. Sometimes things don't happen that way and the Congress is strong enough to tide over such trivial matters,” she said.