Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat is learnt to have sought the details of the case of molestation filed against his cabinet minister Harak Singh Rawat, indicating the party was contemplating removing him to avoid adverse political fallout ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
"The fact that the CM wants to study the FIR shows some action against the minister is in the offing," a close aide of Harish said on the condition of anonymity. He added the minister was "dispensable" and sacking him will not affect the party's strength in the assembly.
The Congress also appears to have hardened the stand on the minister's alleged involvement in the case. Party spokesperson Surendra Agrawal played it safe on Tuesday, saying the "law will take its own course on the issue". But on Wednesday, he said any action initiated by the chief minister in accordance with party high command's wish would be implemented.
The pressure on the party to take a call on the minister is likely to increase, especially after anti-graft activist Kiran Bedi came out in support of the complainant.
Also, many senior party functionaries believe that the government has realised it cannot influence the case, as the FIR has been lodged at Safdarjang police station in New Delhi. They also believe Harak, who is in New Delhi to meet the party high command, might be asked to resign.
The case was registered after a 30-year-old woman on Monday accused the Rudraprayag MLA of sexually harassing her at a house in south Delhi's Green Park in September last year. The woman told the police she had approached the minister for a job and he called her to the house, which, according to some reports, belonged to his relative.
Harak, however, reiterated that the complaint was baseless and the woman was trying to blackmail him. He claimed the woman had met him about five months ago in Dehradun and then in Delhi and requested him to allocate her a land lease deed in Haridwar.
"When I turned down her request, the woman tried to blackmail me, about which I have sufficient proof," he said.
He added a criminal based in western UP (Meerut is in western UP) was also involved in blackmailing him.
Harak said he had handed over the recording of his conversation with the woman---the source of her alleged blackmail---to the director general of police BS Sidhu, who advised him to also inform then CM Vijay Bahuguna.
"I wanted to file a case against the girl but decided not to. Both the DGP and the former CM advised me against failing a case saying that such a step would drag the government into unnecessary controversy," he told HT.