Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat on Saturday said that the “unholy alliance” led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah was behind a sting that showed him allegedly agreeing to a multi-crore deal for buying back nine rebel Congress legislators.
“The contents of the CD (showing the sting) are plain falsehood aimed at blackmailing the people of the state,” he said during a hurriedly organised press conference at his residence.
The sensational 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 the BJP legislators’ demand for a conscience vote at the assembly’s budget session on March 18.
Harak Singh Rawat, a recently sacked minister and one of the rebel MLAs, circulated the controversial CD at a press conference in Delhi. Speaking to TV reporters after the event, Bahuguna’s son Saket alleged that the incumbent chief minister was seen agreeing to the deal to buy back the nine rebel Congress legislators.
Harak Singh alleged that Rawat was not only trying to lure the nine Congress MLAs back into the party’s fold with bribes but also issuing threats against them. “We have, therefore, asked the Centre to provide us security cover,” he said at a media interaction in Delhi.
The expose, telecast by TV channels in Delhi, was carried out by a local television channel called Samachar Plush. It allegedly showed Rawat agreeing to the deal at a meeting with Harak Singh at the Jollygrant airport in Dehradun on March 23.
The sting CD was circulated at the press conference three days later.
Rawat, however, dubbed the editor-proprietor of Samachar Plus as a notorious blackmailer. “Everybody from chief ministers to government officials is scared of him,” he said.
Alleging that blackmail was the sole reason for the editor-proprietor’s rags-to-riches story, Rawat said: “All the chief ministers who refused to be cowed down by his blackmailing had to go through this kind of situation.”
The Uttarakhand chief minister said his government cannot be brought down under pressure like this, and added that the national media should “try and dig out his (the editor-proprietor’s) controversial past”.
The nine rebel MLAs have shifted their allegiance to the BJP to “fulfill their greed for power and pelf”, Rawat said, adding that they were no longer a part of the Congress. “Speaker GS Kunjwal recently issued a notice against them, signalling that they might invite action under the anti-defection law,” he added.
The chief minister, however, refused to answer queries relating to the nine rebel MLAs and the sting CD — stating that the matter was sub judice. “The greed of lucre drew them to the BJP, but now they talking about lucre,” he said.