ON a high after the Harish Rawat government was reinstated in Uttarakhand, the Congress Wednesday launched a no-holds-barred attack on the Central government, even as the party began weighing the pros and cons of going for early assembly elections to cash in on what it deems is a sympathy factor for Rawat.
Uttarakhand is scheduled to go to the polls early next year, and the party believes this episode of President’s Rule will leave it with enough ammo.
Taking the attack to PM Narendra Modi, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said, “Hope Modiji learns his lesson. People of this country and the institutions built by our founding fathers will not tolerate murder of democracy. They did their worst. We did our best.
Democracy won in Uttarakhand.” Addressing mediapersons, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said, “The Prime Minister should tender an apology in Parliament and sack the minister who advised him to impose President’s Rule.”
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Asked specifically about the possibility of early elections in the state, Ambika Soni, Congress general secretary in-charge of Uttarakhand, told The Indian Express: “I am not ruling it out; I am not ruling it in. This is something which individuals don’t decide.” She said the party will discuss all the possibilities with the state leadership.
Congress Working Committee member Anil Shastri did not hedge his bets, and categorically stated, “Rawat must go for fresh elections. He will win hands down. If elections are held immediately, the Uttarakhand electorate will make BJP bite the dust.”
Several senior leaders said the party’s assessment is that there is a sentiment in favour of Rawat, especially among his Thakur community, which comprises nearly half the state’s electorate. “The Thakur community’s vote is very significant and is the deciding factor. And there is huge sympathy in the community in favour of Rawat, although it is up to him to take a final call,” a senior leader said.
Rawat, of course, will closely watch the CBI inquiry against him in the sting operation case. “On the face of it, we feel the CBI will go after him,” another senior Congress leader said. “The BJP government will not let this issue die down. He may wait to see which way the investigation proceeds before taking a call.”
Many leaders feel Rawat should face the polls now, riding on the momentum generated by a mass contact campaign he and the party had undertaken to protest against President’s Rule, rather than wait till the assembly runs its term, by which time some of the momentum might be lost. But the party will first try and get a sense of its remaining MLAs, leaders said — since the party does not have a majority on its own, the view of allies will also matter.
While 10 Congress MLAs have switched sides, the party has not suffered a split or major erosion in its ranks even in the constituencies of these MLAs.
Soni congratulated the party MLAs for “standing together firmly with deep conviction” and for not allowing “floor crossing to take place”. The party, she said, “has fought back…the BJP did not stop short at anything. The allurements which were offered, according to our MLAs…some said they threatened with ED, IT, and IB… Some of our MLAs were really financially vulnerable..they come from far-flung areas, and they still resisted (money).”