Dehradun, April 20 - There is no end to the factional feud in Uttarakhand Congress. The latest spat between two arch rivals Satpal Maharaj, Pauri Garhwal MP and Harish Rawat, Union Minister of Agriculture, Food Processing and Parliamentary Affairs, has erupted on the issue of efforts by the Congress to look for a “safe” Assembly segment for Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna.
Vijaya Bahuguna, Congress MP from Tehri Garhwal Lok Sabha seat who was appointed by the party high command as Chief Minister last month after a fragile victory in the state Assembly polls has to enter the state Assembly within six months. Since the Congress has only one seat more than the opposition BJP in the state Assembly, efforts were made by the Congress managers to persuade an opposition BJP legislator to vacate his seat in favour of the Chief Minister.
However, Harish Rawat, who has been unhappy for not being offered the post of the Chief Minister, has thrown a spanner in the works. In a statement, he said the decision to engineer a “defection” amongst opposition BJP would be morally wrong and could trigger unrest in the state with the Opposition hitting the streets.
Most of the Congress leaders view his statement as an attempt to add to the problems of the already beleaguered Chief Minister Bahuguna. Harish Rawat had raised a banner of revolt against the decision of the party high command to choose Bahuguna as Chief Minister. He, along with his supporter legislators, sat on a dharna at his New Delhi residence against the decision of the party high command for a fortnight. To placate Harish Rawat, his supporters were adjusted in the Bahuguna Cabinet.
One of his loyalists Mahendra Singh Mahra, who recently lost Assembly polls, was given a Rajya Sabha seat while another of his supporters, Govind Singh Kunjwal, was made the Assembly Speaker. But it did not bury their differences and the fresh salvo by Harish Rawat has annoyed Bahuguna supporters.
Satpal Maharaj, Pauri Garhwal, Congress MP who had earlier criticised Harish Rawat for allegedly blackmailing the party high command, in a statement here today said that if any of the Opposition legislators offers his or her seat for the Chief Minister Bahuguna, it would be welcome.
He reminded Rawat that the tradition of getting an Opposition legislator to vacate a seat for the Chief Minister was started by the Opposition BJP when Lt Gen TPS Rawat (retd), a Congress legislator, resigned from the party and vacated his Assembly segment for the then Chief Minister Maj Gen BC Khanduri (retd) in 2007.
Meanwhile, Dhirendra Pratap, Uttarakhand Congress spokesperson, also accused Harish Rawat of teaching ethics to party leaders when he himself indulged in rebellion.
The party leaders are also divided on the issue of having a new Uttarakhand Congress Chief. Yashpal Arya, the present Uttarakhand Congress President, has been inducted in the Bahuguna cabinet and Harish Rawat has started pressurising the party high command to appoint Pardeep Tamta, Congress MP from Almora or Mayukh Singh Mahar, Congress legislator from Pithoragarh, as state Congress chief.