Leadership rejig in Uttarakhand Cong fuels more differences ahead of 2022 polls
The newly appointed leader of Opposition in Uttarakhand, Pritam Singh, who was former state president of Congress, took charge formally on Monday while new state president Ganesh Godiyal will take charge on Tuesday. However, despite the new appointees taking charge, it seems all is not well in the party ahead of the 2022 elections due to differences among party leaders over the new appointments by party central leadership, observers say.
The new appointments were made by party national president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday night which ended the month-long crisis in Uttarakhand Congress over the appointment of the new leader of Opposition after the demise of party senior leader Indira Hridayesh.
Under the new appointments, former party MLA Ganesh Godiyal was appointed the party’s new state president while former state unit head Pritam Singh was chosen as the new leader of Opposition in state assembly along with four new working presidents of the state unit - Jeet Ram, Bhuwan Kapri, Tilak Raj Behad and Ranjit Rawat.
Former chief minister and party national general secretary Harish Rawat, who is also the Punjab unit in-charge and credited with solving the party’s crisis there, was appointed the president of the 2022 election committee president along with the member of Rajya Sabha Pradeep Tamta as vice president and former minister Dinesh Agrawal as the convenor. Party leader Aryendra Sharma was appointed the state unit’s new treasurer.
Ever since the new appointments were made, differences erupted among the leaders of the state unit citing the side-lining of former state president Pritam Singh in the new team by removing him from the position a few months ahead of the next assembly polls. Also, there were differences over the appointment of Aryendra Sharma as the new treasurer of the party as he had fought against the party as an independent candidate in the 2017 elections.
Amid the differences, party state in-charge Devendra Yadav would be landing in Dehradun from Delhi along with new state president Godiyal and president of election campaign committee Rawat on Tuesday. He would hold meetings with the newly appointed office-bearers to chalk out a strategy for the 2022 state assembly elections.
However, if party insiders are to be believed, his visit would be focused on dousing the fire over differences on new appointments and get the party together for the upcoming assembly elections.
A party MLA privy to the developments, on the condition of anonymity, said, “It is obvious that not all are happy in the party after new appointments. Many of the Pritam Singh-led group is unhappy that he has been removed from the post of party state president just months before the elections. On top, Godiyal, who is considered close to Rawat with who Singh’s differences are open, has been made the new party state president.”
“This development is significant because Singh has practically lost power in ticket distribution for the polls in which the state president has a major say. With Rawat’s aide as new state president and he himself being the president of the election campaign committee, the ticket distribution would be largely in the hands of Rawat which Singh and his aides can’t tolerate,” said the party leader.
On the difference over the appointment of Aryendra Sharma as the new party treasurer, he said that “Party MLA Harish Dhami was largely upset over it as he accused him of indulging in anti-party activities in the 2017 election.”
Dhami however, while speaking to media persons, denied any reports of being angry over Sharma’s appointment and said he is “with the party at all fronts.”
Political analyst and professor of political science at Garhwal Central University, MM Semwal, on the differences said, “This is always the story in Congress which is its biggest drawback in Uttarakhand.”
“The problem is, within Congress, there are many Congress led by various factions. The new team also seems to be the result of that factionalism. It clearly has imprints of Harish Rawat all over it. Being the senior-most and very shrewd politician in Congress, he could have never allowed any leader to have the upper hand in upcoming elections. With the new team, he clearly has the steering wheel,” said Semwal.
He said, “Also, he has wide public outreach in the party unlike any other leader in Congress. His elevation in state unit will definitely benefit the party as a whole, but not some leaders in the state unit.”
Meanwhile, party state in-charge Devendra Yadav denied any differences in the state unit after new appointments.
“The new team is made with a focus on winning the 2022 state assembly elections which we are sure to win. There are no differences whatsoever in the party as we all believe in collective leadership,” said Yadav.
On Harish Rawat being the party CM face for 2022 elections after being appointed the election committee president, he refuted any such development and said, “The CM face would be decided only after winning the polls as per the party’s tradition.”
Earlier on Monday, after taking charge as the new leader of Opposition in the state legislative assembly, Pritam Singh “expressed gratitude” to all party members for extending their support to him while being the state president and urged them to do the same in the new role.
“After the unfortunate demise of the former leader of Opposition and senior party leader Indira Hridayesh, we are now down to 10 MLAs in the House of 70. However, we will put all our efforts into attacking the government on behalf of the people in the assembly sessions and try to play an active Opposition,” said Singh.