DEHRADUN: A day after Pauri parliamentarian Satpal Maharaj quit the Congress posing a threat to the minority Harish Rawat government, former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna has begun ‘mounting pressure’ on the incumbent CM to get his men key posts within the government and the party organisation.
In what is being dubbed as a tit-for-tat, the former CM began the offensive against his bête noir Rawat by calling a closed-door meeting of MLAs loyal to him at his official residence here in the state capital on Saturday. More than half (15) of the total 33 Congress MLAs (in a house of 70 MLAs) attended the meeting.
It may be noted that the seven-member Progressive Democratic Front (PDF) supported Rawat government, is three short of a minimum 36 MLAs required to form a government.
“It was a show of strength by Bahuguna to make it clear to Rawat that the latter wouldn’t be able to run the government without his (Bahuguna) support after Maharaj’s exit,” a source close to the former CM said about the closed-door meeting presided over by Bahuguna.
“Besides, he (Bahuguna) also wanted to mount pressure on Rawat to get key posts both within the government and party organisation for his men,” he added.Describing the move as a tit-for-tat, the source said Rawat had mounted similar pressure on Bahuguna after the latter took over as CM in 2012.
“Rawat, who had the support of 10 MLAs, literally arm-twisted Bahuguna to get all the key posts within the government and the party organisation for his supporters,” he said.
Notably, none of the MLAs belonging to the Harish Rawat group were present in the meeting. Incidentally, barring Sundarlal Mandrawal, three MLAs loyal to Maharaj- Anusuya Prasad Maikhuri, Ganesh Godiyal and Rajendra Bhandari also stayed away from the gathering.
The meeting began at 12.30pm. The CM, who happens to be Bahuguna’s neighbour, joined the meeting one-and-a-half hours later. The MLAs who attended the meeting also included state Congress president Yashpal Arya.
However, both Rawat and Bahuguna tried to make light of the situation.Emerging from the meeting they told reporters that the move was aimed at discussing the Congress party’s preparations for the Lok Sabha polls.
“We all sat together so that we could discuss the poll preparations,” said Bahuguna and Rawat. “Besides, we also wanted to arrive at a consensus so as to request Soniaji (Congress president) to announce the party’s candidates for all the five LS seats in the state before March 25,” they added.
Sources close to Bahuguna claimed that Rawat is “so shaken after Maharaj’s exit from the Congress that he came to attend the meeting uninvited.”
“Rawat is nervous as he has got the support of just 10 MLAs…The majority of the MLAs are loyal to Bahugunaji,” said a source close to the former chief minister.
He added that there is no guarantee that the seven-member PDF would continue its support to the Rawat government.