Rawat to meet Congress brass amid Uttarakhand rumblings

Updated on Dec 24, 2021 02:55 AM IST

The party’s general secretary in charge of organisation, KC Venugopal, reached out to Harish Rawat on Thursday and invited him for a meeting in the Capital.

Uttarakhand Congress campaign committee chairman Harish Rawat.(PTI)
Uttarakhand Congress campaign committee chairman Harish Rawat.(PTI)
By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Congress is making attempts to mollify party leader and former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat after his Twitter posts alleging lack of support from the party stirred a hornet’s nest in the state that is due to go to the polls early next year.

The party’s general secretary in charge of organisation, KC Venugopal, reached out to Rawat on Thursday, and invited him for a meeting in the Capital, according to people aware of the matter.

Rawat is expected to meet Rahul Gandhi at 10am on Friday, the people added.

”It wasn’t a very elaborate conversation,’’ confirmed two Congress leaders on condition of anonymity. “Venogopal called him, and he agreed to come.”

Venugopal was accompanying Rahul Gandhi on a trip to Kerala, and some other state leader’s may also meet him on Friday, one of the leaders indicated. The two leaders were confident that the party would be able to iron out any differences within the team running the election campaign in Uttarakhand.

The latest controversy is a blow to the party, which has been tackling infighting in Punjab, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Kerala, and several other states, in recent months. And Congress MP, Manish Tewari, one of the “G23” (group of 23) leaders who wrote to president Sonia Gandhi seeking reforms in the party structure, pointed this out in a tweet on Thursday.

“First Assam then Punjab now Uttarakhand... Bhog Poora Hi Paun Gaye/ Kasar Na Rahe Jawe Koi,” Tewari posted, along with a smiley face with sunglasses. A rough translation means, “let’s do it all, don’t leave any stone unturned”, and the references to the three states suggested his allusion was to former Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is now Assam CM but with the Bharatiya Janata Party; former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, who has now left the party and allied with the BJP ahead of next year’s elections; and now Rawat.

The turn of events surrounding Rawat’s public ire is ironic because, just a few months ago, he was firefighting between Amarinder Singh and Navjot Singh Sidhu, the warring factions of the Punjab unit of the Congress, as the party’s general secretary in charge of the state.

Rawat’s Twitter thread in Hindi on Thursday said: “Isn’t it strange, one has to swim in the sea in the form of forthcoming electoral battle... instead of cooperation, the organisational structure at most places is turning its face away or is playing a negative role... There are many crocodiles... On whose directions one has to swim, their nominees are tying my hands and feet.” He also said that he was contemplating retirement.

For those familiar with Uttarakhand politics, the target of Rawat’s unhappiness was not too hard to figure out. A party official in the state contended that general secretary in charge Devendra Yadav, 49, who was appointed in September last year, was locked in a turf war with Rawat, 73, over who will call the shots in the poll campaign.

Both Rawat and Yadav declined to comment but a person close to the former CM said that Yadav was micromanaging the poll campaign. Rawat’s grouse is that Yadav hasn’t included even one of his nominees in the state committee

The Congress is looking to dislodge the BJP from power in the hill state, which Rawat served as CM between 2014 and 2017. The BJP is roiled by troubles of its own, and has changed its chief minister thrice in the last year. In the 70-member assembly, the BJP has 55 members and the Congress has 12.

Amarinder Singh, who left the Congress in November, was among the first to respond to Rawat’s tweets. “You reap what you sow,” he wrote on Wednesday. Rawat’s team denied that the former CM would join any other party. ‘’If he is not allowed to function then he will just retire and not go to any other party,’’ they said

When contacted, Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala simply said: “I don’t want to comment on tweets of Congress leaders.’’

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    Sunetra Choudhury is the National Political Editor of the Hindustan Times. With over two decades of experience in print and television, she has authored Black Warrant (Roli,2019), Behind Bars: Prison Tales of India’s Most Famous (Roli,2017) and Braking News (Hachette, 2010). Sunetra is the recipient of the Red Ink award in journalism in 2016 and Mary Morgan Hewett award in 2018.

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