Netas switching loyalty during elections is not a new thing in any poll-bound state. But what is noticeable is that in the last eight months, 11 Congress legislators in Uttarakhand have left the party to join the BJP.
In less than a month time Uttarakhand goes to the polls and timing of senior Congress legislator Yashpal Arya leaving the party could indeed leave a negative impact on the image of Congress poster boy and chief minister Harish Rawat.
Congress in Uttarakhand had witnessed inner squabbling in past but leaders preferred to remain with the party. Some of Congress leaders who joined BJP - Satpal Maharaj, Vijay Bahuguna, Yashpal Arya and Harak Singh - remained claimants for the chief ministerial position.
In fact, all of them enjoyed a clout within the party and they had one common competitor Harish Rawat. The latter who took reins of state in early 2014 paved a way for others to exit. The first one to leave was Maharaj followed by a battery of leaders.
In the present scenario in Uttarakhand, the only stalwart in the Congress who poses a challenge to Harish Rawat is Indira Hridayesh.
Whether exit of senior leaders have strengthened the position of Harish Rawat or has weakened his position? Insiders say Rawat’s position has somehow weakened and his leadership is also under question.
“The Congress averted a split by preferring ND Tiwari over Harish Rawat in 2002 when it won the assembly poll,” recalled Anil Bahuguna, a political analyst.
In 2012, Harish Rawat was a strong claimant for the chief minister’s post but the party ignored him and picked Vijay Bahuguna owing to opposition from Maharaj and Arya camps.
In the last two years, the one man show led by Harish Rawat perhaps became a catalyst for others to sulk. “Harish Rawat’s autocratic style of functioning has annoyed (leaders),” said Harak Singh Rawat who had revolted against the chief minister.
In the ongoing poll season, Arya’s exit has somehow signaled that nothing going fine in the Congress. 1-2% swing of votes in Uttarakhand tilts political atmosphere either way. Party strategist fear that Arya leaving party will leave a negative imprint on minds of voters and it will be a big challenge for the Congress to come out of it.