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Meet the six key men behind the Uttarakhand political crisis

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST

It\'s been more than a month since Uttarakhand has been in a state of political turmoil, after nine Congress MLAs revolted against the Harish Rawat dispensation.

With the Supreme Court staying the Uttarakhand High Court\'s order quashing President\'s Rule in the state, there\'s still no end in sight to the crisis.

Catch takes a look at six individuals who have played a key role in this political drama.

No one in the BJP is pursuing Narendra Modi's idea of 'Congress-mukt Bharat' as fiercely as the Union Finance Minister.

It is Jaitley who pushed the idea of invoking Article 356 in the hill state, on grounds that it was legally tenable.

In a Facebook post titled 'A State Without a Budget', Jaitley wrote: "...On 18th March 2016, it appears that 35 Members voted against the Appropriation Bill and 32 in favour."

It was his use of 'appears' that came under severe criticism from all quarters. His critics argued that it could have appeared to the Speaker that the Budget was passed, and not to Jaitley, who was sitting in Delhi.

The matter went to the High Court, which then made scathing observations on the role of the Central government, and its hurry in invoking Article 356. Jaitley sensed that the court's ruling could go against the Cabinet's decision, and before he left for an official trip to the US, he had asked his friend Mukul Rohatgi, who also happens to be the Attorney General, to approach the Supreme Court in case of an unfavourable judgment.

Vijay Bahuguna

Ever since Bahuguna was removed as the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand on charges of corruption, he had been holding a grudge against Rawat, who he thought played a crucial role in his removal.

Rawat and Bahuguna have been at loggerheads ever since the former was made CM, despite his little experience in state politics. Bahuguna has been scheming to topple Rawat's government, and his attempts gained momentum after Sonia and Rahul Gandhi refused to give him an opportunity to vent out his frustration.

A late entrant in politics, Bahuguna joined the Congress in mid-1990s after he resigned as a judge from the Bombay High Court. He then lost three consecutive Lok Sabha elections and got his first breakthrough in 2007, winning a by-poll from Tehri.

In 2012, he won the Assembly election and, much to everyone's surprise, was elevated to the post of CM. It is said that his sister and Congress leader Rita Bahuguna had aggressively pushed his case.

In his desire to see his dynasty flourish, he lobbied for his son, Saket Bahuguna, and despite opposition from the state Congress leadership, managed to get him a ticket for the 2012 parliamentary by-polls, which he lost.

After his ouster, he wanted a bigger role for Saket, but that wasn't happening under Rawat. When he tried to approach the central leadership, Bahuguna was yet again snubbed.

Sidelined by Rawat and the central leadership, Bahuguna began to fuel dissidence within the party, and was constantly in touch with BJP leadership. Saket, too, played a major role in fanning the rebellion, which led to his expulsion from the party.

It is believed that Bahuguna wanted to be elected to the Rajya Sabha, but his pleas were ignored, which further aggravated his disillusionment with the party.

Reports suggest that Bahuguna tried to topple the government in November 2015, but some Congress legislators developed cold feet, forcing him to retreat. He had since been working behind the scenes to lure Congress legislators to rebel, and finally succeeded during the budget session.

Kailash Vijayvargiya

If Jaitley is the brains behind the Uttarakhand crisis, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya is heading the dirty tricks department, by fanning the revolt in the Congress.

An old acquaintance of Vijay Bahuguna, Vijayvargiya in 2000 requested Bahugana to fight a case for the mayor's association in Indore. He was then the mayor of Indore. Many believe that it was this acquaintance that made the BJP leadership paratroop Vijayvargiya in Uttarakhand.

Camping in Dehradun, Vijayvargiya worked behind the scenes and coordinated with Congress dissidents. He even tried to reach out to those who were not particularly happy with Rawat's style of functioning.

He was even seen with 35 Uttrakhand MLAs, including the nine rebels, on board the flight from Dehradun to Delhi, and also led this delegation to meet the President in Delhi.

Sources in Delhi claim that Vijayvargiya was Amit Shah's choice, who believed that he could bait Congress legislators into defecting. And, he did the BJP national president proud when he successfully destabilised Rawat government.

KK Paul

On 18 March, soon after being approached by the 35 MLAs, including Congress rebels, Uttarakhand Governor KK Paul instructed Rawat to undergo a floor test on 28 March. Thereafter, he sent three messages to Rawat about the floor test, and the Chief Minister twice wrote back to the Governor, agreeing to the same.

Between 18 March and 26 March, Paul sent eight reports, wherein he mentioned the Speaker's role, the proceedings of the floor, the Appropriation Bill and the sting against Rawat.

The Congress claimed that nowhere did he mention 'breakdown of constitutional machinery', which is the condition precedent to Article 356. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is arguing Rawat's case in the courts, said the recommendation for President's Rule came from the Cabinet, and not the Governor, which also became the basis of the order passed by the Division Bench of the High Court in Nainital.

Legal experts believe that Paul's decision to give Rawat 10 days to prove his majority was awfully long, and this led to both the BJP and the Congress indulging in horse trading. It was during this period that a video sting of Rawat offering money to rebels surfaced.

Govind Singh Kunjwal

On 10 March, when Assembly Speaker Kunjwal held a meeting with state legislators for a smooth budget session, little did he know that it would be the one for which he would be remembered forever.

Ever since his controversial decision to pass the budget in the state assembly, Kunjwal has come under fierce criticism from the BJP for declaring a failed Appropriation Bill as passed.

The BJP claims that its legislators, along with Congress rebels, had asked for a Division, both prior and subsequent to the Assembly session.

"The proceedings of the Assembly circulated in writing establishes the charge that a Division was asked for, and yet, it was claimed that the Appropriation Bill has been passed without a vote," wrote Jaitley in his blog.

Fondly known as 'Pahad ka Gandhi' (Gandhi of the mountains), Kunjwal has been a veteran in state politics, and is one of the few legislators who had entered the UP Assembly before the formation of Uttarakhand.

His proximity to Rawat is well known and, after the 2013 floods in Uttarakhand, he had openly defied the then-CM Bahuguna and raised doubts about the death figures that the government had announced.

He came under further criticism from the BJP after he disqualified rebel Congress MLAs, who then approached the High Court against the Speaker's move. The hearing is ongoing and the fate of Rawat hinges on the verdict.

If allowed to vote, Rawat is bound to lose his chair, which will give BJP an opportunity to form the government.

However, the 71-year-old Kunjwal remains unfazed by criticism, and defended his decisions as legally and constitutionally correct.

Baba Ramdev

On 24 March, the Congress dropped a bomb, when it announced that yoga guru Baba Ramdev played a crucial role in destabilising the Rawat government.

The party claimed that Ramdev was in touch with the Congress rebels - Pranav Singh Champion and Pradeep Batra - who represent two assembly segments in Haridwar. In fact, these constituencies are in close proximity to Ramdev's Patanjali Yogpeeth.

Congress leaders allege that Ramdev, since 2011, has been trying to influence these MLAs, and this only intensified after BJP won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Ramdev had other reasons to dislodge the Rawat government. Ever since the Congress came to power in the state, it has lodged several cases against Ramdev's Rs 2,000 crore empire in Haridwar. In fact, reports suggest that bitter opposition from the Congress government has forced Ramdev to invest outside of Uttarakhand.

"If there are reports that his products are not genuine, why won't we initiate a probe? He added that Ramdev, along with other sadhus, has been trying to implement Narendra Modi and RSS's agenda of Congress mukt bharat," said Uttarakhand Pradesh Congress Committee president Kishore Upadhyay.

However, Ramdev has ridiculed these charges, and said he hasn't spoken to any MLA. He insists the current crisis is the Congress's own doing.

First published: 24 April 2016, 1:54 IST