Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat has offered lucrative posts to several senior Congress leaders and ticket hopefuls to stem dissension in the faction-riddled ruling party ahead of the assembly elections, due early next year.
Playing Santa Claus, Rawat offered some 30 sulking Congress leaders important positions in the state’s various commissions, councils and boards in the past two months.
The state Congress is divided into two camps—one headed by Rawat and another by party’s state unit president Kishore Upadhyay.
The positions in boards and councils will become non-functional once the model code of conduct comes into force with the announcement of elections by the end of this month. The commissions, however, have a fixed tenure of three or more years.
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.
For instance, Irshad Ansari, a ticket claimant from Haridwar rural seat, was offered fixed tenure of a chairman of the Weavers Commission. But he refused the position insisting that he should be given the party ticket from Haridwar rural, a seat chief minister’s daughter Anupama Rawat is also eyeing.
A prominent Gujjar leader of the party, Chaudhary Yashveer, who was lobbying for Haridwar’s Khanpur seat, refused to take over as chairman of the Farmers Commission he was offered. Now, his bête noire Chaudhary Rajendra has been recommended for the same post. Rajendra too is seeking ticket from Khanpur.
State Congress vice president Jot Singh Bisht is seeking ticket from Dhanaulti constituency, from where Preetam Panwar, a minister in the Rawat’s government, is contesting as an independent candidate. Panwar is an MLA of the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, a constituent of the ruling alliance.
To placate Bisht, he has been made the chairman of the Mandi Parishad (an agro board).
Bisht said though he felt honour by the position offered to him, but that did not mean he was giving up his ticket claim.
“I will continue to seek ticket from Dhanaulti seat unless the party decides against giving tickets to those using cars with red beacon,” he said.
Rawat also rewarded several of his loyalists with these minister-level positions. His ardent supporter Bhagirath Lal Chaudhari has been made vice chairman of Backward Welfare Council while Santosh Chauhan has been made vice chairman of the Most Backward Welfare Council.
Another of his loyalists Puran Singh Rawat has been appointed as vice chairman of the council for people displaced in natural disasters.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s state president Ajay Bhatt took serious exception to the chief minister’s dole-out drive, saying it was wastage of tax payers’ money ahead of elections.