Congress leaders in Uttarakhand say that former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna is an antithesis of his more illustrious father, late HN Bahuguna, who led undivided Uttar Pradesh in the 70s and is still revered as a leader of the masses. In contrast, Vijay Bahuguna is described as “moody” and an “introvert”.
The spotlight has turned once again on the “moody” leader as a political crisis gripped the hill state after six Congress MLAs rebelled against chief minister Harish Rawat and sided with the BJP for a possible change of guard.
The rebellion is said to be centred on 69-year-old Bahuguna who was looking for an opportunity to avenge his unceremonious dumping as chief minister in 2014 to be replaced by Rawat.
Sources within the Congress say that Bahuguna’s desire to see his dynasty flourish in the political spectrum is a major factor in the rebellion.
While HN Bahuguna was “never in favour of pushing his children into politics,” as his close associate SC Ramola put it, Vijay Bahuguna has carefully backed his eldest son Saket, trying to groom him as the political successor.
Saket was expelled for six years from the party’s primary membership for leading the rebellion.
Among the children of HN Bahuguna, the first to enter politics was Rita Bahuguna – a sitting MLA from Lucknow – followed by her younger brother Shekhar.
But Shekhar, a lawyer, failed to make a mark after twice contesting the assembly polls unsuccessfully from Allahabad. In his fifties, he now keeps a very low profile.
Vijay was a late entrant to politics and it was Rita who guided his transformation from a judge to a hard-nosed politician. Vijay joined the Congress after resigning as a judge of Bombay high court in the mid 90s.
However, it was not a smooth entry as he lost three parliamentary elections in a row till be was elected in the 2007 by-poll from Tehri. He was re-elected in 2012.
Vijay Bahuguna emerged as the dark horse after the 2012 assembly polls when Harish Rawat was the frontrunner for the CM’s post. But this development was not sudden. Rita had lobbied hard for her brother.
A prominent face in Uttar Pradesh politics, Rita enjoys a good rapport with the Congress first family.
After that, Bahuguna’s dynastic ambitions kicked in, sources said.
Ignoring claims of several senior aspirants, Bahuguna gave the party ticket to Saket in the 2012 parliamentary by-polls. Saket, however, lost the elections.
Saket, in his forties, is an advocate based in New Delhi and is chief legal officer with India Bulls, which is into real estate, housing finance and securities.
“Saket is a corporate person and takes politics the same way but that doesn’t works,” says Vijaypal Rawat, who worked closely with Saket. Bahuguna’s younger son Saurabh looks after his father’s constituency.
Vijay Bahuguna lost the CM’s chair over allegations of failure to respond promptly after the 2013 flashfloods that devastated large parts of the state including the holy shrine of Kedarnath.
But it is unclear yet who will be the last man standing after the political tsunami kicked up by the ambitions of Vijay Bahuguna.