Hectic lobbying may have begun within the Congress for Uttarakhand’s soon-to-be-vacant Rajya Sabha seat. But there is a general resentment within the party against its leaders’ ‘behind-the-scene’ moves to ensure that they or somebody from their families land the plum berth.
Two top state Congress leaders lobbying for the Rajya Sabha seat for their near and dear ones are chief minister Harish Rawat and his predecessor Vijay Bahuguna, according to party insiders.
The hill state, it may be noted, has in all just three Rajya Sabha seats. Incidentally, of these (seats), two are represented by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and one seat by the Congress.
One of the Rajya Sabha seats represented by the BJP will fall vacant after the party’s Rajya Sabha member Bhagat Singh Koshiyari resignation in June.
He has completed his six-year term as the Rajya Sabha member. Besides, Koshiyari has also been elected from the Nainital-US Nagar Lok Sabha seat in the recently concluded general elections.
However, as far as the Rajya Sabha seat goes the Congress is more confident of landing it than the BJP as the number game favours it (Congress). It has 33 MLAs in the state assembly compared to the BJP’s 28.
The saffron party had 30 MLAs in a house of 70 seats but two of them (MLAs) were recently elected to parliament in the recently held general elections.
Besides, the Congress is confident of getting the support of the seven-member Progressive Democratic Front (PDF) as far as the election to the Rajya Sabha seat goes. The minority Rawat government survives on the PDF support.
The Congress as a party may appear confident of landing the Rajya Sabha seat but excitement is hardly perceptible among its rank and file.
On the contrary, they are unhappy, party insiders said. “In fact, there is a tremendous resentment among our party workers because a handful of our top leaders like CM Rawat and Bahuguna aren’t sparing even that single Rajya Sabha seat for the second line of leadership,” a Congress leader said.
Congress insiders said CM Rawat is busy lobbying with the high command so that Speaker GS Kunjwal could be named the party’s candidate for the Rajya Sabha seat.
Kunjwal happens to be a relative of CM Rawat. “Similarly, former CM Bahuguna who is currently in Delhi, is trying to ensure that the high command names either him or his son Saket as a party candidate for the Rajya Sabha seat,” a source in the Congress said.
According to him, Bahuguna is lobbying for son’s candidature for the Rajya Sabha seat despite the latter having lost the election from the Tehri Lok Sabha seat twice - first in the 2012 by poll and then in the recently held Lok Sabha elections.
“This is not the first time that a handful of party leaders are lobbying for their family members or relatives,” a senior Congress leader, who claims to have served the party for the past 40 years, said.
According to him, in the Lok Sabha and the assembly elections also tickets are distributed only among the relatives and cronies of the party’s influential leaders.
“Similarly, the red-beacon (cabinet level) responsibilities are also distributed among those who are close to those handful of top leaders,” said the senior Congress leader. “It’s thanks to this nepotism and cronyism that our party was routed in the LS elections,” said a senior Congress leader from Kumaon.