The nine rebel Congress legislators who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on May 18 in Delhi arrived in Dehradun to a rousing welcome on Sunday. They said they would work to make Uttarakhand Congress-free in the 2017 assembly elections.
The new entrants, who had sided with the Opposition in its demand for a vote on the money bill — thereby plunging the state into a political crisis, said they joined the saffron party to rid the state of “the corrupt Congress regime”.
The nine former Congress leaders jumped ship after chief minister Harish Rawat won the trust vote in a Supreme Court-monitored floor test on May 10. Another Congress rebel, Rekha Arya, who voted in favour of the BJP during the floor test, is also likely to join the latter.
Speaking at a function attended by almost all top state BJP leaders, rebel leader and former CM Vijay Bahuguna dubbed their decision to join the saffron party as historic. “It was...a decision not motivated by any selfish reasons,” he said, in a jibe at Harish Rawat’s alleged individualistic style of politics.
He accused the chief minister of being a “double-faced person” who has turned a blind eye to corruption prevailing in his regime, and also of being a “narrow-minded person who acts with a feeling of vindictiveness” against his detractors.
Bahuguna, who was replaced midterm as the chief minister by Harish Rawat, said he could have done the same, “but I refrained from stooping to that level because the party is always above the post”.
Rebel MLA Harak Singh Rawat, who returned to the BJP after 20 years, said the chief minister was playing into the hands of land, liquor and mining mafia. “We joined the BJP to rid the state of the corrupt Rawat-led Congress regime,” he said.
He also accused Harish Rawat of seeking then BJP national president Nitin Gadkari’s help in toppling the Bahuguna government. “Rawatji did not succeed in his attempt as Gadkariji outrightly rejected his request,” he said.
Chief minister Harish Rawat, however, expressed relief over the rebels leaving and alleged that the nine leaders were a burden on Congress because of their involvement in corruption. “It’s in our interest that they have switched sides along with their baggage,” he said at a press conference on Sunday.
BJP national general secretary (organisation) Shiv Prakash attempted to allay fears over ideological clashes between BJP cadres and supporters of the rebel leaders. Bahuguna too said the cadres from both sides would work in tandem to ensure the BJP’s victory in the 2017 elections.