A victory for former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat in Tuesday’s trust vote will not only lift the spirits of the beleaguered Congress but also discourage the BJP from subjecting non-NDA-ruled states to similar strategies in the future.
Such an eventuality, coming nearly two months after nine Congress legislators rebelled against the Rawat leadership in the house, may further unite non-BJP parties against the country’s ruling party. In the wake of losses in Delhi and Bihar, the BJP has been desperately looking for electoral gains in five states – Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry – to disprove critics who claim that the Modi wave has lost momentum.
Rawat’s possible win would weigh heavily on the BJP, even though state leaders claim a moral triumph and accuse the former chief minister of “using money power”, further emboldening Opposition parties to take on the Narendra Modi-led government. On the other hand, the morale of the vertically divided Uttarakhand BJP – which was unable to draw maximum political mileage from the rebellion in the Congress – would take a veritable hit.
Not everybody in the BJP was on the same page with regard to the strategy deployed in Uttarakhand. In fact, the act of luring rebel Congress MLAs – most of whom do not enjoy a good reputation – was widely questioned within party circles in hushed tones.
Sources said Rawat enjoyed the support of 27 Congress legislators, besides six PDF members and a rebel BJP MLA.
A win for Rawat will do the Congress considerable good, acting as a morale-booster against the BJP in the coming days. It may also portray the former chief minister’s detractors as a power-hungry lot, and earn him some sympathy from the voting public.
The projected outcome of the floor test will also show how the Congress had exercised good sense in sticking by Rawat, unlike the BJP – which juggled between Bhagat Singh Koshyari and Satpal Maharaj (who, incidentally, had crossed over from the Congress a few years ago). This created discord in party circles, especially among Koshyari loyalists.
A loss for Rawat would have provided the BJP with an advantage ahead of the assembly elections, vindicating the imposition of President’s rule in the state. The party also made a miscalculation in thinking that the deposed chief minister will not have the required numbers after nine rebel Congress MLAs were disqualified by speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal.