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Down and out after poll loss, Uttarakhand Congress yet to name Leader of Opposition, PCC chief

Sources blame the indecision on the state unit being demoralised after the elections, with the defeat further exposing different factions and lobby groups within the party.

Written by Avneesh Mishra | Dehradun |
Updated: April 6, 2022 8:11:17 pm
Congress president Sonia Gandhi had asked PCC presidents of Uttarakhand, Manipur, Punjab, Goa and Uttar Pradesh to put in their resignations in order to facilitate a revamp of state Congress committees. (File)

Close to four weeks since the Congress was handed a defeat by the BJP in the Uttarakhand Assembly elections, the party is yet to decide on who can lead it in the Assembly and the state.

“A final decision on the posts of leader of opposition and Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president will take more time. The decision is to be made by the party’s top leadership and as of now, we do not have any name for the posts,” said Mathura Dutt Joshi, the party’s general secretary.

Sources blame the indecision on the state unit being demoralised after the elections, with the defeat further exposing different factions and lobby groups within the party.

With senior Congress leader Harish Rawat the biggest face of the party in Uttarakhand, the state unit is broadly divided into pro-Rawat and anti-Rawat groups. But Rawat’s defeat from Lalkuan in the recent elections has thrown up many more contenders for key party positions.

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While the tenure of former leader of opposition Pritam Singh ended with the formation of the new Assembly, the post of PCC chief has been vacant since former state chief Ganesh Godiyal resigned from his post following the party’s defeat in the Assembly election. 

Congress president Sonia Gandhi had asked PCC presidents of Uttarakhand, Manipur, Punjab, Goa and Uttar Pradesh to put in their resignations in order to facilitate a revamp of state Congress committees.

According to sources in the Congress, the three main contenders for the posts of PCC chief and leader of opposition are Pritam Singh; senior Congress leader Yashpal Arya who returned to the party just before the elections; and Bhuwan Chandra Kapri, who defeated Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami from Khatima.

While Singh is once again leading the race for the post of leader of opposition, Kapri and Arya, sources say, are among those being considered for the post of state president, though Arya, they say, is more eager to be considered for the leader of opposition post.

In public, however, the three leaders have publicly denied presenting any claim for the posts.

Yet, party sources say, the delay in the announcement is because the national leadership has been unable to take a call on the names amidst the intense lobbying within the party unit.

“At present, the situation in the Congress is very gloomy and we are getting anxious because of the delay in the announcement of the posts. The state unit is running without a state president – this is not the kind of message that should go out to the people. The lobbying within the party is also hurting us… There is a party kabza abhiyan (campaign to take over the party) going on,” said a senior party leader.

Amid this uncertainty, to make matters worse, there is also talk of the party having to stop some of its MLAs from crossing over to the BJP, with rumours that some have even offered to vacate their seat for Dhami.

In the recently held Assembly polls, the BJP won 47 out of the 70 seats and Congress won 19. Though the BJP became the first ruling party to be voted back to power in Uttarakhand, Dhami lost the Khatima seat by 6,579 votes to the Congress’s Kapri. While the party retained him as CM, to continue in office, Dhami needs to get elected to the Uttarakhand Assembly within six months.

Speaking to The Indian Express, BJP spokesperson Shadab Shams said the seat from where Dhami will eventually contest will definitely be a “safe seat” where the BJP has a strong organisation.

“The possible seats include Champawat (won by BJP’s Kailash Chandra Gahtori) or Lalkuan seat (where BJP candidate Mohan Singh Bisht defeated Harish Rawat). Another seat could be Dehradun Cantt or Rudrapur. In Lalkuan, Rawat was defeated by a margin of over 17,000 votes. Bisht has already offered the seat and if the CM contests there, he will easily win,” he said.

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