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Ally PDF threatens Congress to remove Uttarakhand state chief Upadhyay

Catch Team | Updated on: 23 September 2016, 22:02 IST

Troubles never seems to end for the Harish Rawat-led Congress government in Uttarakhand. Having braved a rebellion and President's Rule, the Congress government has now been threatened by its ally, the Progressive Democratic Front (PDF). The PDF wants the Congress to remove its state president Kishor Upadhaya, or else it will withdraw support.

PDF leader Mantri Prasad Naithani, who is also the state's education minister, spoke to the Congress's state in-charge, Ambika Soni, and said the PDF would no longer tolerate unnecessary comments from Upadhyay. He added that if Upadhyay was not replaced with immediate effect, the alliance partner could even withdraw support.

Speaking to the media, Naithani said the PDF had been following the coalition dharma, and supported the Congress whenever the party high command requested.

At present, Naithani is in Delhi, and is likely to meet senior Congress leaders to discuss the issue and bring an end to the stalemate.

Meanwhile, another PDF leader and state tourism minister Dinesh Dhania, claimed that Naithani was their leader, who had been empowered to take decisions on their behalf. "We had chosen him as the leader of the PDF, and whatever decision he takes will be followed," Dhania said.

War of words

The PDF and Upadhyay have been at loggerheads with each other, with the latter requesting Rawat to show the door to PDF ministers and replace them with Congress legislators before the 2017 Assembly polls.

Recently, during a programme in Kumaon, Upadhyay said he would work in the interest of Congress workers, and not the PDF.

His statements have irked the PDF leadership, which is now seeking intervention from the Congress high command to resolve the issue.

PDF consists of three independent MLAs, two BSP legislators and one Uttarakhand Kranti Dal MLA, and it came to the Congress government's rescue when the Supreme Court directed Rawat to undergo a floor test to prove his majority, after the Centre had imposed President's Rule in the state.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister, in his statement, left the decision on whether to remove PDF ministers to the party high command, saying it has been a trusted ally for the last four years.

"Whoever supports the party will always be supported. Whether to fight the elections alone or with the Congress is up to the PDF," Rawat said.

However, Rawat added it would be better if PDF and Congress contested elections together.

It's actually Rawat vs Upadhyay

Political analysts in the state see this war of words between the two allies as a consequence of the Rawat-Upadhyay feud. They claim the Congress state president is worried that the Chief Minister wants Dhania to contest the Tehri seat on Congress ticket. Dhania had defeated Upadhyay from Tehri in the 2012 Assembly polls.

Earlier this week, Upadhyay asked the PDF leaders to clarify whether they would be contesting as Congress candidates, independents or from other parties. And, what left Upadhyay fuming was the Chief Minister's response, since he took sides with the PDF and said that such statements were 'irresponsible' and 'lacked political maturity'.

Naithani has repeatedly been taking pot shots at Upadhyay, mentioning how despite losing the Assembly elections, he has been made the state Congress chief, and that he should be grateful to party leaders. He has even accused Upadhyay of weakening the Congress. In his response, Upadhyay questioned: "What is PDF and does it really exist on the ground?"

With elections only a few months away, political commentators said that the war of words between the PDF and Upadhyay is likely to intensify. "It is the Chief Minister who is supporting the PDF instead of the Congress state chief, and this battle will get uglier as the state polls approach," said a source close to Upadhyay.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 23 September 2016, 22:02 IST