Ahead of the crucial Uttarakhand assembly polls in 2017, Congress may face a major setback with reports that over a dozen other senior party leaders, including irrigation minister Yashpal Arya, are likely to join the Bharatiya Janata Party.
State BJP president Ajay Bhatt on Thursday added fuel to the reports. At a press conference in the state capital, Bhatt hinted that many “red-beacon” Congress leaders were in talks with the opposition and may join the party soon. Ten Congress rebels had joined the saffron party in May throwing the state into a political crisis.
“When Harish Rawat distributed red beacon recently, many (Congress leaders) who were in communication with us asked (me) what to do? I told them to enjoy the privilege until the code of conduct was enforced,” Bhatt told reporters, indicating he was in contact with a section of Congress leaders.
Another senior BJP leader told HT that some Congress leaders would join the BJP during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s December 27 visit.
However, Congress state vice president Jot Singh Bisht told HT that these reports were just rumours and there was no truth in them. “BJP has been spreading rumours like this since election season stepped in. They want to win this election anyhow. There’s no communication with any of our leaders by BJP,” Bisht said.
Chief minister Harish Rawat had recently offered lucrative posts to several senior Congress leaders and ticket hopefuls to stem dissension in the faction-ridden party ahead of the assembly polls next year. Rawat has also distributed nearly 30 red beacons in last two months.
Party insiders though said chief minister’s ‘benevolence’ so far failed to stop the wrangling over party tickets with many leaders even refusing to take the bait from Rawat sticking to their demand for the party nominations.
Meanwhile, with many Congress rebels joining the BJP, there is also dissent in the opposition party. Insiders claim over a 1,000 ticket hopefuls have submitted applications. Going by the thumb rule, if the party considers sitting MLAs, including rebels as first option, many party leaders are likely to be left sulking.