Exodus to the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections has triggered a crisis for the Uttarakhand and Jharkhand governments, leaving them staring at an uncertain future.
The Congress government in Uttarkhand was dealt a blow on Friday when senior party leader and sitting MP Satpal Maharaj, whose wife is a minister in the hill state, joined the BJP, “promising” to poach from the ruling party flock “when needed”.
Satpal, a “spiritual leader” and an old rival of chief minister Harish Rawat, has a considerable following in the hill state that has five Lok Sabha seats.
In Jharkhand, three MLAs of the ruling coalition — two from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and one from the Congress — have resigned, leaving the government with one-member majority. Two of these MLAs will contest the Lok Sabha elections on BJP tickets while one is now a Trinamool Congress candidate.
For now, the two governments are safe. The BJP, busy with the Lok Sabha elections, is unlikely to open another front by trying to topple these governments.
But, party sources do not rule out the same once the national elections are over. The last round of nine-phase polling, which opens on April 7, is May 12 and counting four days later.
Satpal has been sulking after being sidelined and the recent change of guard in Uttarakhand that saw Rawat get the top job in the state. Rawat has the support of 40 MLAs — 33 of the Congress, three of the BSP and three Independents and one of Uttarakhand Kranti Dal — in the 70-member strong assembly.
Satpal, an MP from Pauri Garhwal, is understood to have conveyed to the BJP that some MLAs loyal to him may walk out of the Congress. “If five or six MLAs rebel against Rawat, his government would be in serious crisis,” a BJP leader said.
The Congress is counting on the opposite. It feels that if Rawat gets time till the Lok Sabha elections, he could wean away some MLAs from the BJP.
Yoga guru Ramdev, whose Patanjali Peeth is in the hill state, is believed to have engineered Satpal’s defection.
The ruling JMM-Congress-RJD coalition in Jharkhand is placed more precariously. The three resignations have brought down the effective strength of the assembly from 82 to 79 MLAs. The ruling combine now has support of 40 MLAs — 16 of JMM, 12 of Congress, seven independents and five of the Rashtriya Janata Dal — including the speaker.
The BJP has fielded JMM MLA Hemlal Murmu from Rajmahal and Bidyut Baran Mahato from Jamshedpur. Congress MLA Chandrashekhar Dubey resigned on Thursday to run for the Lok Sabha from Dhanbad as a TMC candidate. Jharkhand has 14 Lok Sabha seats.