For chief minister Harish Rawat, the last two months turned out to be quite tough as he battled the toppling of his government coupled with his image taking a hit, thanks to a sting showing him brokering a deal to buy over the nine rebel Congress MLAs. However, what saw him sail through those trying times was his public connect and the favourable court rulings, feel political observers.
Rawat has emerged as an undisputed Congress leader in the state with most of his prominent rivals — former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna and sacked minister Harak Singh Rawat —out of the party. And in all likelihood, the Congress will contest the next assembly elections, which are just a less than 10 months away, under his leadership unlike the last time when the party did not declare its chief ministerial candidate.
Observers appreciate the fact that since his government was reduced to a minority on March 18 till he was reinstated after the trust vote, Rawat lived up to his image of a mass leader. Rawat hit the road leading the state-wide Jantantra Bachao Yatra (save democracy foot march) just days after his government fell.
Rawat appeared confident not just the day his government fell, but also after the sting operation featured him brokering a deal. Rawat held his poise even as the NDA government replaced his government with the President’s rule on March 27 and ordered a CBI probe into the sting.
Instead, he went to the people. During his ‘save democracy march’, Rawat launched a sustained campaign against the BJP-led NDA regime accusing the latter of “murdering” his democratically elected government. He accused the BJP of being behind the sting, declaring a conspiracy by the saffron party to nail him.
Analysts admit the chief minister was able to change the public perception in his favour, thanks to his mass contact programme. They are also unanimous that he managed to render the BJP’s graft allegations against him “futile”, thanks to his mass leader image. Besides, the high court and Supreme Court rulings going against the central rule also gave him strength to face the NDA government baying for his blood, say analysts
“He did not lose his confidence even after the BJP toppled his government and got him exposed through a sting and ordered a CBI probe against him”, said Prof M M Semwal of HNB Garhwal (Central) University. He also appreciates the fact that the deposed CM managed to nullify the BJP’s attempts to sully his reputation by turning to people.
Surendra Kumar, a known Rawat loyalist and his media in-charge, says, “Rawatji summoned courage to expose the BJP’s game plan because he draws his strength from the people he has been closely associated with right since he started his political career as a gram pradhan.”
“I was not surprised by the guts he (Rawat) displayed as he’s been a gritty politician since he started his career as a callow youth of 20”, said Rajiv Lochan Shah, a social activist.