Senior Congress leaders in Uttarakhand are in a quandary on whether to kick out the nine rebel legislators, a popular demand of party workers.
Their removal, in essence, will give the rebels immunity from disqualification, which the Congress leadership doesn’t want. But inaction is making the mass contact programme to revitalise disgruntled party workers a challenge.
State Congress president Kishore Upadhyay was in Narendranagar on Monday and in Rudraprayag and Kedarnath a day earlier to connect with party workers.
Narendranagar assembly constituency is represented by Congress rebel Subodh Uniyal, and Harak Singh Rawat and Shaila Rani Rawat represent Rudraprayag and Kedarnath constituencies respectively.
The outreach effort, however, did not go as Congress would have liked. The grassroots reportedly fired a volley of questions over the party’s inaction on the rebel leaders.
The state Congress is in turmoil since the nine legislators, including former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, supported the Bharatiya Janata Party on March 18 during discussion on the crucial Finance Bill in the state assembly.
Within hours of the rebellion, India’s grand-old party ejected Saket Bahuguna, one of the rebels and son of Vijay Bahuguna, for six years, but has since gone mum.
“We will definitely take action against rebels as soon as we receive a communication for action from the leader of Congress legislative party [read Harish Rawat],” Upadhyay told HT.
Vice-president Jot Singh suggested the party was looking at the matter holistically and would decide its next step accordingly. “Emotions are one side and political strategy is on another,” he said.
The Congress leadership is aware that any action now would allow the rebels to join another party without fear of violating the anti-defection law.
The rebels are fighting in high court against their disqualification from the assembly by former speaker Govid Kunjwal. But, they too are mindful of the risk of being poached by rival parties.
Other rebels, such as Kunwar Pranab Singh Champion, are much more vocal. He returned to his constituency in Haridwar district to a rousing welcome.
Champion, who has strong Gujjar support, said he was “forced to raise his voice because the party was not giving due attention to their problems”.