3 BSP MLAs also likely to play crucial role in government formation
The victory of three Congress rebels in the Uttarakhand Assembly elections may prove to be the game-changer for the party that has bagged 32 seats, one seat more than the Bharatiya Janata Party, in a nail-biting finish to the 70-member House. The chances of the Congress returning to power after five years would also be helped by the lone MLA from the anti-BJP faction of the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal.
The Congress, with 32 MLAs, is better placed than the BJP to get closer to the 36-figure mark needed to form the government. With three victorious party rebels and one MLA from UKD-Progressive (popularly known as Pawar faction), the party seems to be inching towards forming its second government in the State. Had the Congress been more careful in selecting its candidates and the high command not succumbed to various factions of the State unit, the party would have easily got clear majority. Significantly, the Congress candidates lost at least half-a-dozen seats due to rebels.
On the other hand, the three Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs — all from Hardwar district — may also play a crucial role in the formation of next government. Political pundits say they may go with the Congress by supporting its government from the outside as the party supremo Mayawati, now voted out of power in Uttar Pradesh, would not risk going against the Congress, particularly at a time when her bête noire Mulayam Singh is all set to rule the State again. Ms. Mayawati, whose outgoing government faces serious corruption charges, cannot afford to have too many enemies under current political scenario, not till the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
For the Congress, the high command will have to play a very important role in placating the three party rebels and bring them back to the party fold. These rebels will also have to be secured from any kind of poaching from the BJP. The Congress also has to decide cautiously on the chief ministerial candidate. The party will have to deal with several contenders for the top post where aspirants include Minister of State for Agriculture and Parliamentary Affairs Harish Rawat, senior MLA and contender from “women” quota Indira Hridayesh (who won this time with highest margin) and party State unit chief Yashpal Arya. Even a “surprise” candidate to keep warring factions at bay cannot be ruled out.
On the other hand, the BJP will find it difficult to stake claim to form government, more so when its Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri himself has lost from Kotdwar along with at least half-a-dozen Cabinet colleagues. With the Lok Sabha elections just two years away, the party would prefer to be in Opposition and prepare for the 2014 general elections instead of getting involved in horse-trading, particularly when its former Chief Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal, and other leaders face corruption charges. Notably, in the 2009 general elections, the BJP was routed in the State as it lost all five Lok Sabha seats.