The Congress party expelled Saket Bahuguna, son of former Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, who is spearheading a rebel camp in the party that has threatened to form the state government with the BJP’s support.
Bahuguna was expelled for six years from the party’s primary membership on Monday, a day after government orders were given to expel six supporters of Harak Singh, the agriculture minister, from an agro body. Singh was expelled from the Cabinet on Saturday for his “unparliamentary conduct” in the state assembly where he apparently joined those shouting anti-government slogans.
The Congress government in Uttarakhand is facing a major crisis with nine MLAs rebelling against the Harish Rawat-led state government, and the BJP, which has 27 MLAs, staking claim to form the government.
Refusing to back down, Umesh Sharma, one of those opposing Rawat, said sulking legislators had been seeking time from the Congress leadership for a while but never received a response.
“We are all set to form government. There is no question of joining the Congress camp and if Congress wants, it can extend support to us,” Sharma told Hindustan Times in a telephonic interview, stating their government would be formed without members of the Progressive Democratic Front (PDF), which includes BSP, UKD and independents.
Rawat, who was scheduled to meet party leadership in the Delhi on Monday, was directed to cancel his trip by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to mitigate the situation in the state.
Thirty five BJP legislators, accompanied by the nine Congress MLAs, are expected to meet president Pranab Mukherjee on Monday to ask for the dismissal of the state government.
Sharma conceded that some Congress leaders approached the legislators, but “it was too late now”.
“We were seeking time from the top brass since last 2 years and none responded and now suddenly everyone wants to speak to us,” Sharma said.
Reports stated that Congress leaders, including chief minister Rawat, had approached about six of the rebelling MLAs. However, Sharma, a supporter of former CM Vijay Bahuguna, categorically suggested that the “Congress should support the next government”.
The Congress nevertheless refuted allegations that party leaders did not responded to the legislators.
“There is nothing like communication gap. We always respected our legislators and we continue to do us. We are hopeful finally they (rebel) will return to the party fold,” Congress spokesperson Mathura Dutta Joshi said.
In their meeting with Mukherjee, Sharma said they would complain about the “ongoing constitutional crisis in the state”, including his grouse with Speaker Govind Kunjwal who, Sharma stated, had no right to serve notice “when he himself is in question”.
The Uttarakhand assembly will witness a floor test on March 28. Both Congress and BJP moved their MLAs to ‘safe locations’. The BJP and Congress rebels are in Delhi whereas Congress MLA’s have been shifted to Ramnagar, close to the Corbett National Park.