Harish Rawat insists Congress names a ‘CM face’ for Uttarakhand polls
- Harish Rawat claimed that he has ruled himself out of the top job in the state.
Congress national general secretary and former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat has sparked a debate in the party by insisting that it should declare its chief ministerial candidate for the 2022 assembly election.
Rawat had recently said that the party leadership should declare the CM face for the polls which would help end the factionalism and clear confusion among party workers.
On Tuesday, he took to social media urging the party national leadership to declare Pritam Singh, Uttarakhand Congress unit president as the CM face for 2022. In the same media post he also named leader of Opposition Indira Hridayesh as another possible candidate saying he "doesn't have a problem with her either as the CM face."
His statements have made the state leadership including Singh and Hridayesh uneasy. Both Singh and Hridayesh have been saying that the party would fight the elections under a "collective leadership."
In one of his social media posts on Tuesday, Rawat wrote, "Pritam Singh is our ‘General’ (Senapati). Hence, I request the leadership to declare him the CM face of Congress in 2022 polls. I will also welcome the name of Hridayesh as I have already ended the speculations regarding my name for the same."
In the same post, he also underlined that he wants to exit the “collective leadership.”
"I request the party leadership to free me from the collective leadership as sometimes it is also important for one to stay free. Also, the debacle of 2017 polls has made me a burden on the state leadership which I want to end by keeping myself away."
Even before the unease that his posts had sparked died down, he put out another post on Wednesday saying he would “stand behind whosoever the party declares the CM face."
"From a strategic point of view also, it is important to do so as it would end the winning streak of BJP. It could be our strategy to go in with a Congress CM face vs a BJP CM face. I believe doing so will improve the party’s performance in 2022," he said.
Amid the discomfort in the Congress, Pritam Singh tried to play it down saying that it was Rawat’s “personal suggestion.”
"Declaring CM face is his suggestion. Our party had earlier fought the previous assembly polls without declaring the CM face whether it was 2002, 2007 or 2012. We will do the same in 2022 also. Moreover, our party state unit in-charge Devendra Yadav has already said that the party would fight the polls under collective leadership and accept whoever the central leadership decides for the CM candidate," said Singh.
Leader of Opposition, Hridayesh however, countered Rawat's suggestion by reminding him of his loss on both seats from where he contested in 2017 as the party's CM face.
"Rawat himself was the CM face in 2017 polls and lost on both the seats from where he fought which anyway was a bad decision. Also, all know we have never declared the CM face before polls. In 2017 when he was the CM face, we failed to win in all the districts which could have given us 13 seats instead of the present 11," she said.
Rawat’s pitch for a chief ministerial face seemingly also has not yet made an impression on the party’s national leadership.
The Congress party’s Uttarakhand in-charge Devendra Yadav said, "We are at present focused on our preparations for the 2022 polls. We will fight it under collective leadership and think about the CM face later after winning it."
MM Semwal, a political observer, believes the “CM face” is a clever card by Rawat to jockey for the chief minister’s post.
"Rawat is a very shrewd and seasoned politician. Whatever he says or does is very well planned and he knows what the results would be. Rawat also knows that he is the only major face for the Congress in Uttarakhand and what he had said about a CM face is just to burnish that image in the state before the polls. If Congress wins the 2022 elections, there is every chance that Rawat will again become the CM and he too knows that," Semwal said.
The ruling BJP insists that a CM face will make no difference to the Congress’ fate in the polls.
"Congress is divided into factions which is an open secret. They are now fighting over the CM face for the next assembly polls which is like swinging a stick in the air. We will win more than 60 seats and again come to power while Congress will keep dreaming to win it," said Bansidhar Bhagat, BJP president in Uttarakhand.
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