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Struck by rebels, stung by media: Harish Rawat’s image takes a hit

Uttarakhand crisis Updated: Mar 27, 2016 22:32 IST
Anupam Trivedi
Anupam Trivedi
Hindustan Times
Harish Rawat

Chief minister Harish Rawat addresses a press conference in Dehradun on Saturday. (PTI)

A sting video purportedly showing chief minister Harish Rawat striking a deal for bringing rebels back to the party fold has come at a bad time for the 69-year-old leader.

Exactly eight months ago on July 22, chief minister’s officer on special duty (OSD) Mohamad Shahid was caught in video, allegedly demanding money from a person for awarding liquor rights.

The two sting videos appear to have tarnished the CM’s image.

“Rawat could have successfully gained sympathy from the present political crisis but he failed miserably. From hero he seems to have emerged a villain” feels Jay Singh Rawat, a Dehradun-based political commentator.

Read: ‘Unholy alliance’ led by Modi, Shah behind Uttarakhand sting CD: Rawat

The expose came just two days before Rawat was slated to prove his majority in the Uttarakhand assembly on March 28.

The government was plunged into a constitutional crisis after nine Congress MLAs led by former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna supported BJP legislators’ demand for a conscience vote at the assembly’s budget session on March 18.

The CM has come out all guns blazing and blamed the central government. But the tactic appears to not have worked, with people on social media questioning the credibility of Rawat’s government.

“Harish Rawat don’t deserve to be the CM; he shud be sacked even If Congress proves majority in house ... (sic)” tweeted one Azeez Mubaraki @azizmubarki.

Rawat was seen as the party’s media face, especially after his election as an MP from Haridwar in 2009.

He was first inducted into the Manmohan Singh cabinet as a minister of state and was later elevated as the cabinet minister for water resources.

His regular appearances on news channels as a cabinet minister elevated his image as an articulate leader.

This was why the Congress high command picked him as chief minister in 2014 to replace Vijay Bahuguna in spite of Rawat’s ‘rebellious’ reputation.

His mass contact with workers as well as masses cemented his image further.

Rawat managed to rope in himself as a ‘pahari’ leader who equally enjoyed the support in the plains.

But the Rawat government came under attack last year when it introduced a new liquor policy. Many alleged it was meant to ‘mint money’ and remove some people from competition.

The BJP then released a sting video that purportedly showed his officer asking for money. This snowballed into a political controversy with the CM accusing the Narendra Modi government of hatching a conspiracy.

Now history seems to have turned full circle – this time involving Rawat himself -- and again, he is training his guns on NDA and BJP leaders.

Read: U’khand crisis: HC dismisses petition of rebel Cong legislators