With the Lok Sabha elections over chief minister Harish Rawat has started scouting for a ‘safe’ assembly seat to enter the Uttarakhand assembly about four months after he took over following a change of guard.
Rawat, who took over on February 1 replacing his predecessor Vijay Bahuguna, is an MP from the Haridwar Lok Sabha seat.
However, it is constitutionally mandatory for the CM to get elected to the state assembly within six months of taking over so as to continue in his position.
This means Rawat will have to get elected as an MLA before July end. Rawat, no doubt, is under pressure to find a safe assembly seat and, if Congress insiders are to be believed, he has already initiated efforts in that direction. And many Congress MLAs are stated to be ready to vacate their seats for the CM. “In fact, almost all party MLAs are willing to vacate their seats for the CM to contest a by-poll so that he enters the state assembly,” state Congress spokesperson Surendra Kumar told HT on Tuesday.
However, party sources said the CM isn’t in favour of his party MLAs vacating their seats for him owing to the Congress being in a minority within the assembly as the ruling party has three short of a minimum 36 MLAs (in a house of 70 legislators) needed to form a government on its own. So, if the Congress government is surviving it is due to the support extended by its ally - the seven-member Progressive Democratic Front (PDF).
Sources, therefore, suggest that CM Rawat is left with no option but to follow the formula of his predecessor Bahuguna. The former CM poached on the then BJP MLA from Sitarganj Kiran Mandal and entered the state assembly by winning a by election from that seat in 2012.
It is in this backdrop that a ‘closed-door’ meeting reportedly held between the CM and BJP’s Bhimtal MLA Dan Singh Bhandari recently in Haldwani is being seen. The BJP though rubbished such reports.
“None of our MLAs would end their political career by vacating their seats for the Congress chief minister at a time when the BJP’s countrywide popularity graph is soaring,” said the party’s organisational secretary Sanjay. He also dubbed as baseless the Congress’ reported claim that four more BJP MLAs had also offered to vacate their seats for the CM.
“The tactic is aimed at instilling confidence among the PDF members about the stability of the (Congress) government. The fact is that the PDF members are in touch with us,” said Sanjay.