Last year, former Uttarakhand CM Vijay Bahuguna and Harak Singh Rawat had led the defection of nine Congress MLAs into the BJP. With many of them once the target of vicious attacks from the BJP, the Congress has sought to make an issue out of the BJP’s change of heart about them. At his rally in Dehradun last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had attacked the Congress government over what is called the “scooter scam”. On stage with him was Bahuguna, whom the BJP had fiercely accused of being the key player in the scandal.
BJP spokesperson Munna Singh Chauhan sought to explain: “The BJP does not assess the wrongdoings of any politician by his affiliations. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it. This is the greatness of the PM that he speaks without any fear or favour.”
Chauhan now defends Bahuguna: “We have always criticised Bahugunaji for responding to the Kedarnath disaster very late. The scooter scam you talk about… the Harish Rawat government ordered an inquiry and gave a clean chit to all decisions by Vijay Bahugunaji. If at all there was a scam, the burden was on the succeeding government.”
Congress leaders said it is not Bahuguna alone. “The BJP was opposing all these leaders for years. Be it Kunwar Pranav Singh, Amrita Rawat or Pradeep Batra, BJP workers were burning their effigies. With what face will they go to people now?” CM Rawat’s chief spokesperson Surendra Kumar said.
The BJP, which used to call Bahuguna “hatyara” for his alleged mismanagement of the Kedarnath disaster, kept its choicest phrases for Harak Singh, a Congress minister. “Koi bhi ladki bhagti hai to sabse pehle log kehte hain ki yaar kahin Harak Singh to nahi le gaya usko utha kar (Whenever any girl disappears, at first people say whether Harak Singh has abducted him),” former BJP vice president Dhan Singh Rawat had told a TV channel not so long ago.
Now that they are on the same side, Harak Singh interpreted Dhan Singh’s remarks: “This is politics… Dhan Singh did not say… He meant whenever any girl disappears, I give them shelter. I have arranged weddings of several girls. I am facilitating MBBS education… If you take it [Dhan Singh’s remarks] in a negative way, what can one do?”
Chief Minister Rawat has made defeating the rebels a personal target. “We will not let the rebels win,” the CM tweeted from his official handle last week. Since most of the rebels are likely to get BJP tickets, the Congress is banking on disillusionment among loyal BJP cadres. “If they are given tickets, their rival BJP leaders will obviously support us,” said Surendra Kumar.
PCC chief Kishore Upadhyaya said the rebel MLAs “have become Bhasmasur. It will cause a major loss to the BJP…. We will make it a big issue.” The BJP denies any damage caused by inducting these MLAs. “It is an absolutely wrong impression. It speaks of the frustration of the Congress. Our new and old cadre is working in complete synergy,” Chauhan said.