The BJP on Wednesday inducted nine rebel Congress MLAs, including former Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, who were disqualified from the state assembly under the anti-defection law.
The legislators, whose defection led to President’s rule being imposed in Uttarakhand, joined the BJP “unconditionally”. They were expelled by the Congress after Harish Rawat won a trust vote on the floor of the House and returned as Chief Minister on May 11.
BJP sources said “a section of party leaders in the state had reservations” against inducting the MLAs. Before the nine MLAs officially joined the BJP at a small function at the party headquarters in Delhi, BJP chief Amit Shah held a series of meetings with state leaders during the day.
The move came after Bahuguna and eight other MLAs met the senior BJP leadership.
Former state chief ministers B C Khanduri, Bhagat Singh Koshyari and Ramesh Pokhriyal, Bhatt and Jaju were among those who attended the meeting.
Delhi: 9 rebel Uttarakhand Congress MLAs join BJP. pic.twitter.com/sk6APGf5kZ
— ANI (@ANI_news) May 18, 2016
“All nine rebel Congress MLAs, who had raised the banner of revolt against Harish Rawat in Uttarakhand, have today joined the BJP unconditionally,” Uttarakhand BJP president Ajay Bhatt said.
No senior BJP leaders from the Centre, except the party’s general secretary in-charge of Uttarakhand Shyam Jaju, were present at the function.
“For two years, we kept trying to alert central Congress leaders about resentment in the state unit. We hope the voters will now see that we did not act for the lure of power or money. We are with Mr Modi, who is a pragmatic and inspiring leader,” Bahuguna said.
“We demand that the state assembly be dissolved and fresh elections be ordered immediately as the Harish Rawat government has lost the right to be in power and the confidence of the public,” he said.
Bhatt said another dissident Congress MLA, Rekha Arya, who had voted against Rawat during the floor test, was also supposed to join the BJP on Wednesday, but could not as she was away in Ujjain to participate in the Mahakumbh.
Among those joined the BJP on Wednesday are former minister in the Harish Rawat government Harak Singh Rawat, Amruta Rawat, Shailendra Mohan, Kunwar Pranav Singh, Subodh Uniyal, Pradeep Batra, Shaila Rani Rawat and Umesh Sharma.
Earlier in the day, Shah chaired a meeting of the Uttarakhand core group, held in the wake of the setback suffered by the party in the state, where its attempt to dislodge the Congress government failed. Shah and top party leaders from the state dissected the BJP’s strategy and analysed the prevailing political scene in Uttarakhand, which goes to polls early next year.
Party leaders believe the Supreme Court verdict in favour of a floor test and the return of Harish Rawat to power have given the Congress an edge in the state among voters.