The hills and beyond: Why Uttarakhand is a test for Congress, BJP

  • Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: May 10, 2016 12:12 IST
Former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat addressing the media in Dehradun . (PTI)

When Uttarakhand MLAs cast their votes in the state assembly on Tuesday, the fate of deposed chief minister Harish Rawat won’t be the only thing at stake.

The floor test will open another round of confrontations between the Congress and the Union government, accused of meddling in the affairs of non-BJP-ruled states, possibly setting the stage for the upcoming state assembly elections.

Read more: Litmus test for BJP, Cong as Rawat faces floor test in Uttarakhand

With less than a year to go for the polls, the BJP is keen on wresting power from the Congress in the hill state.

The dismissal of the Congress-led governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand has drawn considerable criticism, further uniting opposition parties in their quest to bring down a party that’s desperate for an electoral victory after two consecutive losses in Delhi and Bihar.

If Rawat manages to pull off a win, it will embolden the Opposition at the Centre and further lower the morale of a vertically divided Uttarakhand BJP. Not everybody in the BJP was happy about the strategy adopted in the state. In fact, the act of luring rebel Congress MLAs – most of whom do not enjoy a good reputation – was questioned within party circles in hushed tones.

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However, if Rawat is defeated on the floor of the house, the BJP leadership can sweep all that under the rug. It will give the saffron party a big boost against the Congress, which was recovering under Rawat after Vijay Bahuguna’s controversy-ridden tenure.

A loss for Rawat will also act as a challenge to his leadership, a situation that will give the BJP an additional advantage ahead of the assembly elections. It will help the Union government justify the dismissal of the state government – vindicating it on all counts.

Read more: Uttarakhand floor test: Supreme Court’s order is unprecedented

Rawat sorely lacked the numbers to get the appropriation bill passed in the assembly on March 18. Nine rebel Congress MLAs and 27 BJP MLAs defeated it easily, spelling curtains for his government.

But today, nearly two months later, the numbers game has changed dramatically. The rebel MLAs have been barred from voting, and the BJP is clearly short of victory. Rawat may just hold the cards to victory, provided he succeeds in keeping his house in order.

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