Amid reports of rebellion by several BJP leaders after being denied tickets for the assembly polls, the Congress has hinted that it will not hesitate to “induct” the opposition dissidents into party fold or “help” them in the election.
Congress leaders, including chief minister Harish Rawat and PCC president Kishore Upadhyay, have, however, clarified they will not encourage any defection in the opposition ranks.
Interestingly, the ruling party has been at the receiving end of defection politics so far, with 11 of its MLAs switching loyalty to the BJP in the last eight months.
The BJP on Monday announced 64 candidates for the 70-member assembly, the elections for which will be held on February 15. The list included all the 30 sitting MLAs, besides the Congress legislators who had joined the BJP after a political crisis last year.
The Congress said it will also support those BJP rebels who are unwilling to join the party but want to contest as independent candidates.
“Congress has no agenda to engineer defection in the BJP, but will be looking at those who are willing to join us, on merit basis. The scope of amalgamation is always there in politics,” said chief minister Rawat on Tuesday, welcoming the BJP strongman from Bajpur assembly constituency, Pratap Singh Bajwa, who was denied ticket by his party.
The BJP preferred Rawat’s cabinet minister and sitting Congress MLA Yashpal Arya over Bajwa, who was the front runner for nomination till Monday. Arya joined the BJP on Monday following a reported deal with the party to get tickets for him and his son.
Bajwa joined the Congress along with 200 supporters at the state Congress headquarters in Dehradun, and is expected to contest against Arya.
The Congress is also seeing an opportunity in the rebellion of BJP’s two-time MLA from Roorkee, Sureshchand Jain, who was denied ticket for Congress rebel MLA Pradeep Batra.
Party sources said their leadership will also target Narendra Nagar and Kotdwar assembly constituencies where the BJP’s official candidates (former Congress rebels) are facing rebellion from the party’s rank and file.
Former BJP MLA from Narendra Nagar Om Gopal Rawat is preparing to contest as Independent, while BJP’s Shailendra Singh Rawat has rebelled against the party in Kotdwar, where the party has fielded Harak Singh Rawat who defected to the BJP last year.