As Uttarakhand grapples to find its feet after last month’s devastating floods, factionalism within the ruling Congress has cast a long shadow over relief and rehabilitation work in the worst-affected districts of the hill state.
Many ruling party MLAs are said to be openly critical of chief minister Vijay Bahuguna for allegedly not doing enough to help the affected people.
State Congress vice-president Suryakant Dhasma candidly admitted a lack of cooperation from party MLAs and appealed to his party colleagues “to put aside the differences in the moment of crisis. All our party MLAs and organisational leaders should focus on relief work”.
Significantly, another senior Congress leader claimed that most of the disgruntled Congress MLAs “belong to the group led by Union water resources minister Harish Rawat who had opposed Bahuguna’s elevation as chief minister”.
Congress MLA from Kedarnath, Shailarani Rawat, has openly accused the chief minister of neglecting relief operations in her constituency. Rawat had, in fact, sat for a protest demonstration in the capital during the recent visit of AICC’s in-charge for Uttarakhand Ambika Soni and Union minister for rural development Jairam Ramesh.
Another Congress MLA, Rajendra Singh Bhandari from Badrinath, too had been very vocal in his allegations of neglect by chief minister.
The infighting in the ruling party has reached such a pass that even the Opposition is finding it too ugly. Former state BJP president Manoharkant Dhyani said that the chief minister “is doing his best as far as relief operations are concerned…but he is not getting cooperation from his own MLAs”.
He also felt that “both the Congress and BJP leaders should work together to ensure that relief reaches the disaster-struck areas at the earliest”.
Activists claimed that the lack of response from the political leaders is severely hampering relief and rehabilitation.
“It’s a fact that hundreds of quintals of relief material are pouring in but mostly they are being dumped here and there and left to rot,” said Laxman Singh Negi, an activist from Garhwal’s Urgam valley.
“There are instances where trucks full of relief material have as they did not know the way to the affected villages. As a result, people in at least 30 completely cut- off villages falling in Rudraprayag and Chamoli districts are facing starvation”, Negi said when contacted by HT over phone.
Dr MM Semwal, a professor in Garhwal University, said that Congress MLAs’ presence in the disaster-struck areas would have a given fillip to the relief operation. “They know their constituencies like the back of their hands…Besides, being ruling party MLAs, the official machinery engaged in relief operations too would act fast in their presence”, said the professor who has been engaged in relief operations “right from day one.”