The nine Congress rebels who plunged Uttarakhand into a political crisis are likely to join the BJP and contest next year’s assembly polls as its candidates, top leaders in the saffron party told HT.
Under a quid pro quo deal with the central BJP leadership, four of them will even get ministerial portfolios if the party wins the polls, top leaders of the party’s state unit said on the condition of anonymity.
Former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, who is leading the rebellion, is seeking a Rajya Sabha ticket with the BJP’s backing, they added.
The Congress rebels did not confirm the move explicitly but said the doors are open for “either joining the BJP or forming our own party”.
The speaker disqualified the nine Congress MLAs under the anti-defection law, hours after imposition of President’s rule in the state on March 27, a day before the state government was scheduled to go for a floor test in the Assembly.
On Friday, the high court deferred till April 11 a petition by six of the MLAs challenging the speaker’s decision.
“An understanding that they will join us (the BJP) was reached between them and our party chief Amit Shah long before the assembly’s budget session began,” a state leader said.
Another BJP leader said both the party and the Congress rebels “will be in an advantageous position” irrespective of the court verdict.
If the high court quashes their disqualification, the nine rebels will vote for the BJP in case of a floor test.
“In that case our party will form its government as we will have a comfortable majority with 36 legislators including the nine rebel Congress legislators supporting us in a House of 70,” the leader said.
And even if the court upholds the Speaker’s order, the Congress legislators will be able to join the BJP as they “do not have the required strength (24) to invite action under the anti-defection law”.
Bahuguna has already said that the group has “come too far away” to return to the Congress.
The BJP leaders said that Bahuguna is seeking accommodation of his two sons -- Saket and Saurabh -- in the BJP and party tickets for them to contest the assembly and Lok Sabha polls.
“The deal suits us because we are organisationally weak in seven of the nine assembly seats represented by the Congress rebels,” another BJP leader said.
The state BJP leadership neither denied nor confirmed the deal.
“We can’t comment on such issues as they are in the domain of our central leadership,” said senior BJP leader and former assembly speaker Prakash Pant.