Defection of Cong MP may shake minority govt in Uttarakhand

In his anxiety to paint the Congress as a party of losers, BJP President Rajnath Singh on Friday rolled out the red carpet for a man against whom his own party is demanding a CBI inquiry for corruption.

Satpal Maharaj, the Congress MP from Pauri (Uttarakhand), joined the BJP this morning. Rajnath welcomed him in the party headquarters, saying: “Satpal Maharaj will boost the party’s prospects in Uttarakhand. I welcome him in the BJP.”

Maharaj, on his part, promptly put his switched loyalties on display: “India will become a superpower in Narendra Modi’s leadership.”

The calculation is that Maharaj, whose wife Amrita Rawat is a minister in the Uttarakhand Cabinet, will help the BJP shake the minority Government in the State. Besides Rawat, whose position in the Congress becomes untenable after her husband declared allegiance to Modi, Maharaj has the capacity to pull out a number of legislators from the Congress. If even a handful of MLAs supporting him join the BJP, the State Government will be destabilised.

The Congress has 32 MLAs in the 70-member Assembly. It crosses the half-way mark with the support of one MLA of the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD), three legislators of the BSP and three Independents.

The BJP had won 31 seats in the Assembly. Maharaj’s departure does not bode well for the State Government although BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman officially refused to comment on this particular import of Maharaj’s arrival in the BJP. “I am not commenting on any such calculations. For today, we are happy that Maharaj has joined. And what does it say about the Congress, which is being deserted by senior leaders?”

Call for CBI probe

But the BJP seems to have forgotten that less than a month back, its entire State unit had demanded a CBI probe against Maharaj, Rawat and their son Suyesh for channelling horticulture subsidy to build polyhouses in their private nurseries.

On February 19, BJP MLAs led by Leader of Opposition Ajay Bhatt stormed the Well of the Uttarakhand Assembly demanding a CBI probe into a ₹63-lakh subsidised loan scam in which Maharaj and his family were involved.

(This article was published on March 21, 2014)
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