Home Alone: Defectors from Congress in Uttarakhand sulk in silence 

Defectors to the BJP are realizing that unless they come through the RSS, joining the BJP is no guarantee to power or authority

 The rebels with Uttarakhand CM Trivendra SIngh Rawat  
The rebels with Uttarakhand CM Trivendra SIngh Rawat

SMA Kazmi

The Bharatiya Janata Party may welcome defectors from other parties with open arms but discards them after the ‘cooling period’, defectors from the Congress in the state are discovering to their chagrin.

Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has been cold shouldered and denied a Rajya Sabha nomination by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). With the denial the humiliation of the former Congress leader who crossed over to BJP in 2016 and helped bring down the Congress government led by Harish Rawat is complete.

Bahuguna had deserted the Congress with nine Congress legislators and expected to be suitably rewarded. But the Rajya Sabha party ticket was given to Naresh Bansal, an RSS worker. The experience of nearly three and half years of BJP government, led by a former RSS Pracharak Trivendra Singh Rawat, has been equally humiliating and nightmarish for the five former Congress legislators in the ministry.

The wings of the most vocal and aggressive former Congress minister and presently Forest and Labour minister Harak Singh Rawat have also been clipped. Once known as one of the ‘boldest and bravest’ leader of the state, he was summarily removed as Chairman of the State Labour and Workers Council, which he headed as a cabinet minister in charge of the labour department. To add to his humiliation, he was not informed about the move and all his ‘favourites’ who were members of the Board were also dropped from the board.

A petulant but much mellowed Harak Singh Rawat could only announce that he would not be contesting the coming 2022 assembly polls and informed the party also about his decision. But in the very next breath, he said that his decision was subject to approval by the party.

Similar is the fate of several other ministers with Congress background. Satpal Maharaj, a ‘Godman’ turned politician, who joined BJP in 2014 when Harish Rawat was made the Chief Minister in 2014, is reduced to lament that bureaucrats refuse to listen to him. Satpal Maharaj, who espoused “Manav Dharma” and had a large following of his own had been bending backwards to prove his allegiance to the ‘Sangh Parivar” in the past six years but to no avail. Despite being the Tourism Minister of the state, the bureaucrats of his ministry take their orders directly from the chief minister and others in the RSS but not from Maharaj.

Yashpal Arya, a former state Congress chief and a protégé of former Chief Minister and veteran leader N.D.Tewari is also a minister in the present BJP state government but remains “unknown and unheard”. It has been learnt that he too has been sidelined as a showpiece and plays no role in decision-making or in the day to day operations of his department. Ironically, during Harish Rawat’s tenure as CM, Arya would regularly get ‘annoyed’ as PCC Chief with his own government and would throw regular tantrums, forcing Rawat to placate him.

Another aggressive former Congress leader, a close confidante of Vijay Bahuguna, has also been cut down to size. Subodh Uniyal, the present Agriculture Minister, was known as an authoritative leader in the Congress. But he is finding the going tough and cannot have his way. Recently Chairman of the Mandi Parishad was appointed by the state government against his wishes.

Rekha Arya, another minister who crossed over from Congress in 2016, learnt her “lessons” when she tried to rein in a bureaucrat of her department who was not responding to her phone calls. She lodged a missing report with the police. But she was ticked off and “reined in” by the Chief Minister’s office. Her protestations against bureaucrats were ignored.

“These leaders were compensated with party ticket in the last assembly election and given ministerial berths. But they cannot claim any special privileges,” said a BJP leader in the state.

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