Senior Uttarakhand Congress leader and Pauri MP Satpal Maharaj crossed over to the BJP on Friday, pushing the state government of Chief Minister Harish Rawat towards instability.
At least three of the Congress’s 33 MLAs in the 70-member house are Satpal loyalists, including his wife Amrita Rawat, who is a minister in the state government. One independent MLA supporting the government is also in the Satpal camp.
The MP has been bitterly critical of Chief Minister Harish Rawat. He has reportedly been the most annoyed by the chief minister’s refusal to give the horticulture portfolio to his wife. Amrita Rawat had horticulture in the government of Vijay Bahuguna, who was chief minister before Rawat took over last month.
The Uttarakhand BJP is happy to have Satpal Maharaj as a significant Thakur leader which it has been missing, especially in the Garhwal region.
“The BJP lacked a prominent Thakur face in Garhwal to counter CM Rawat’s influence among Thakur voters who have considerable presence across the state. Although Rawat is from Kumaon, he is in a position to strengthen his grip over Thakur votes in Garhwal following his elevation as CM,” a BJP leader said.
Pauri, which Satpal represents, faced the brunt of last summer’s natural disaster, and the Congress is believed to be facing major anti-incumbency at the seat. Satpal had announced he would not contest the Lok Sabha election before he joined the BJP. The BJP has already decided to field former chief minister B C Khanduri at the seat.