Uttarakhand CM: Sonia choice takes oath,party split in middle

State Congress unhappy; senior leader Harish Rawat resigns from Union ministry in protest.

Written by Agencies | New Delhi | Published: March 13, 2012 3:28:41 pm

Hand-picked by Congress president Sonia Gandhi,Vijay Bahuguna took oath as Uttarakhand chief minister at 5 pm today,ignoring protests from several state leaders,including veteran Harish Rawat.

Earlier in the day,the Congress ruled out any rethink over Uttarakhand’s chief ministership,declaring that party MP Vijay Bahuguna would take oath as scheduled.

Protesting against being overlooked,Harish Rawat had resigned from the Union government as Minister of State for Agriculture and Parliamentary Affairs.

Vijay Bahuguna was named the chief minister by Congress President Sonia Gandhi last night.

In three or four days,six more ministers may be inducted after consultation with the party high command,Bahuguna told reporters.

Earlier,AICC general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi had said central observers Ghulam Nabi Azad and Birendra Singh would attend the swearing-in,which would take place as scheduled.

Throughout Tuesday,Rawat’s supporters protested outside his residence against Bahuguna’s candidature.

A sulking Rawat is said to have sent his resignation as Minister of State for Agriculture and Parliamentary Affairs as he felt it would be difficult for him to continue in the government when for the second time,his claim has been overruled.

Eighteen MLAs met Rawat last night soon after Bahuguna’s name was announced. Protests gathered momentum this morning with Congress MP from Almora Pradip Tamta also joining the chorus against Bahuguna.

Rawat defeated BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi to the Lok Sabha in 1980 has been reelected three more times. He was ignored ten years ago over veteran N D Tewari. He has served a term in Rajya Sabha too.

Tamta said “injustice” was done to the Union Minister in this matter which had led to great disappointment” among party workers of the state.

However,he ruled out the possibility of any split in the party over the issue,saying Congress President Sonia Gandhi was their leader. “Nobody will break the party,” Tamta told reporters.

“We are only saying what has happened in this matter is an injustice to Rawat. He is the only leader acceptable to all in Uttarakhand and is the party’s face.”

Asked about Harish Rawat’s revolt,Bahuguna said he was a Congressman and the problem was internal. He expressed confidence the high command would resolve the issue through consultations.

He said discussions would be held with the high command on the ministers to be inducted over which allies would also be consulted.

Earlier in the day,Union Minister Harish Rawat showed defiance against the high command decision by resigning from the central ministry.

Another senior leader Harak Singh Rawat has also come out in favour of Harish Rawat.

“The future of the new government in Uttarakhand is very bleak… It can continue only for 10 to15 days… Harish Rawat is credited for reviving Congress in Uttarakhand but (Vijay) Bahuguna has no contribution in the state and has been imposed on us,” Harak,who was elected as MLA from Rudraprayag,said over phone from New Delhi.

His move to side with Rawat assumes significance since he was also a top contender for the CM’s post.

When asked whether the new leader should have been an elected MLA,Harak said,”Yes,the party high command must give weight to MLAs first… In case the party high command had to choose from the MPs,then the first right to become the chief minister was that of Harish Rawat.” He also indicated he would boycott the swearing-in ceremony of Bahuguna.

The decision to nominate Bahuguna is a body blow to the sentiments of the people who wanted a senior party leader to become the chief minister,he claimed.

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