BJP’s Uttarakhand unit says no to entry of rebel Cong MLAs

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on May 17, 2016

Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, along with other Congress rebels, addressing a press conference in Dehradun, earlier this year PTI

However, the BJP central leadership is unmoved by the internal resistance

The BJP’s Uttarakhand unit is strongly resisting the entry of nine rebel MLAs of the Congress into the party.

To discuss the issue, the BJP’s central leadership has called a meeting of the party’s Uttarakhand core group, which includes all former chief ministers and MPs, including BC Khanduri, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank. Party President Amit Shah is also expected to attend the meeting.

“Of course they [the rebel Congress MLAs] are coming to the BJP,” a top BJP functionary told  BusinessLine. He, however, agreed to heartburn in the party ranks over their imminent entry.

‘Entry without preconditions’

The MLAs, led by former Congress Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, had met the BJP President last Saturday. After the meeting, they announced their entry into the BJP with some of them asserting that they were doing so “without any preconditions”.

However, the MLA from Khanpur, Kunwar Pranav Champion, said he would fight the next elections as an independent.

Who it hurts

In the BJP, local equations will definitely be disturbed by the rebels’ entry: if nine sitting MLAs join the party, they will be natural claimants for party tickets in the Assembly elections scheduled next year. Thus approximately 15 per cent of the 70 tickets will have be allotted to rank-outsiders, and those who have worked against the party in the past. Party loyalists and workers are naturally upset.

For instance, in Sitarganj, Bahuguna had defeated the BJP’s Prakash Pant in a 2012 by-election triggered by the resignation of then sitting MLA Kiran Mandal (also of the BJP). Mandal’s resignation had already weakened the BJP, while it also paved the way for Bahuguna’s victory by a record margin of 39,954 votes. Bahuguna’s entry completely diminishes Pant’s chances of being fielded again from the constituency.

Similarly, in the Raipur Assembly seat, the BJP’s Trivendra Singh Rawat was defeated by the Congress’ Umesh Sharma by a margin of less then 500 votes. Sharma is also among the nine rebel Congress MLAs seeking entry into the BJP.

The prospect of accepting Bahuguna and another Congress bigwig Harak Singh Rawat, against whom the BJP rank and file has been campaigning for the last almost five years, is extremely disturbing for the local BJP workers.

Going Shah’s way

However, party President Amit Shah’s past decisions have indicated that winnability is the only criteria for picking candidates, and he has seldom shown any hesitation in picking aspirants from rival parties. Himanta Biswa Sarma, a Congress stalwart in Assam was inducted into the BJP months before the elections, and was deputed by Shah to spearhead the party’s campaign. As exit polls show, Sarma’s selection has drastically improved the BJP’s prospects in Assam. And thus, the top leadership is hardly likely to be impressed by the loyalists’ objections.

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Published on May 17, 2016
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