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RS Polls: Problem of plenty plagues faction-ridden BJP in Uttarakhand

The Rajya Sabha elections are due on March 23 and BJP’s win in Uttarakhand, where congress won’t field its candidate, is a foregone conclusion

dehradun Updated: Feb 24, 2018 21:13 IST
Deep Joshi
Deep Joshi
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
RS Polls,Rajya Sabha elections,Uttarakhand BJP
Former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna is one of the top contenders for the Rajya sabha ticket from Uttarakhand. (HT File)

With the Election Commission announcing the date of polling for the one Rajya Sabha seat in Uttarakhand, along with 57 elsewhere in the country, a hectic lobbying has begun in the BJP that rules the mountain state.

Party’s win in the election, due on March 23, is a foregone conclusion considering the number of its MLAs in the assembly after last year’s landslide win the state elections.

BJP state in-charge Shaym Jaju is arriving in Dehradun on March 3 to “gauge” the party legislators’ mood ahead of the Rajya Sabha election, which is being held as per schedule as the six-year term of the Congress’ Mahendra Singh Mahara is ending in the first week of April. Two other Rajya Sabha members representing the state, Raj Babbar and Pradeep Tamta, also happen to be from the Opposition Congress.

The Congress has decided not to contest the Rajya Sabha election as it has just 11 MLAs in the House of 70. The BJP has a three-fourth majority in the House. The massive strength, however, has become a problem of plenty for the party as most of its senior MLAs are eying the lone Rajya Sabha seat.

Prominent among those said to be lobbying for the ticket are former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna and BJP state unit chief Ajay Bhatt. The buzz is that former assembly Speaker Harbans Kapoor and Didihat MLA and former minister Bishen Singh Chuphal are also in the fray.

Bahuguna, who is said to be close to the top BJP leaders, was instrumental in causing split in the Congress ahead of the 2017 assembly polls. The former Congress heavyweight, however, enjoys no responsibility either in the BJP’s organisational wing or in the government. There are also reports that Bhatt may be rewarded with the Rajya Sabha seat as the party won the last assembly election under his stewardship. In his place some Kumaoni Brahmin might be brought in to head the party’s state unit as chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat hails from Garhwal.

Several other legislators are also said to have thrown their hat in the ring. With so many of them eyeing the lone Rajya Sabha seat and the BJP’s state unit echoing with the rumblings of rebellion, the party brass doesn’t seem inclined to impose its candidate. Instead, it is looking for a consensus candidate, for which Jaju has been deputed. BJP insiders say if such a candidate eludes the party, it would get of its high profile Rajya Sabha members — Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Darmendra Pradhan, J P Nadda or Thavar Chand Gehlot, who would soon be completing their terms --“reelected” from the state.

BJP insiders said Jaju’s two-day visit was not prompted just by so many party legislators eyeing the lone Rajya Sabha seat. “It was also necessitated by the rebellion brewing among party workers owing to the minister-level posts not being distributed among them. Also, two-cabinet berths lying vacant for the past about one year are yet to be filled,” a party leader said.

Jaju sought to make light of the trouble brewing in the party saying “it (discontent) is all a part of the process in the BJP, which is a democratic party.” He refuted the reports about the discontent in the party being unmanageable and that it is facing a crisis-situation. “I will listen to everybody during my two-day interaction with party workers,” Jaju said.

Meanwhile, the party seems to be gearing up to start firefighting. “Gradually, minister-level responsibilities would be distributed among party workers, so they feel motivated ahead of the urban local body polls due in April,” Bhatt said. “A decision to fill the two Cabinet berths could also be taken, although that is the chief minister’s discretion.”

First Published: Feb 24, 2018 21:12 IST