The political crisis in Uttarakhand did not erupt all of a sudden. Its roots go back to 2002, when Congress leader Harish Rawat emerged as a front-runner for the chief minister’s post but lost out to dark horse ND Tiwari at the last moment.
The two prominent leaders from Garhwal — Vijay Bahuguna and Satpal Maharaj — were never with Rawat. Tiwari was the only CM who completed his five-year tenure despite Rawat working against him. History repeated itself in 2012 when Congress formed the government, led by Bahuguna. But post Kedarnath floods, in 2014, the Congress replaced him with 68-year-old Rawat.
An upset Maharaj, another CM aspirant, left the Congress to join the BJP. This was the first sign of rebellion that the Congress could not detect. Now it was Rawat’s turn, who ensured that Bahuguna supporters were sidelined from the mainstream. Harak Singh Rawat, another Rajput leader from Garhwal, unlike Bahuguna and Maharaj, had always changed his position over support to Rawat. When Bahuguna became CM in 2012, Harak Singh stood with Rawat. But equations changed later as Rawat did not give Harak Singh enough space.
After assuming office, Rawat completely neglected his opponents, leading to Bahuguna aligning with Harak. In the last three months, both leaders held several rounds of ‘secret’ talks — the Rawat camp knew but did not take it seriously. “He (Harish) worked in an autocratic manner. Neither he nor the Congress high command had time to listen to us,” said Harak Singh.
Meanwhile, at a party rally on March 14, BJP MLA Ganesh Joshi thrashed a police horse, Shaktiman. A clueless BJP roped in experienced leaders like Kailash Vijaywargiya to find a solution. The BJP approached Bahuguna, secret meetings were held in Dehradun hotels, and before Rawat could do anything, ‘operation uproot’ was done.
On March 18, during a discussion on the Appropriation Bill, the government sensed some trouble — this was the reason behind Joshi’s arrest the next morning. Later, while the House discussed the bill, nine Congress MLAs suddenly demanded a division of votes and were joined by the BJP. The Speaker adjourned the House and claimed the bill had been passed by a voice vote, which was not the case.
Amid a political hullaballoo, a sting operation that showed Rawat allegedly offering money to the rebels proved to be the last nail in the Congress coffin.