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Uttarakhand BJP battles turmoil within its ranks

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 7 September 2016, 16:38 IST

All is not well with the BJP's state unit in Uttarakhand. Differences over who will lead the party's election campaign in the poll-bound state have left many senior leaders dissatisfied.

Reports suggest that party stalwarts and former chief ministers Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, BC Khanduri and Nishank Pokhriyal are aggrieved with the central leadership's decision to give prominence to Congress turncoats Satpal Maharaj and Vijay Bahuguna.

The recently held core committee meeting in Bhimtal bore testimony to the growing disenchantment of these senior leaders.

While Koshiyari didn't even attend the meeting, Khanduri left midway leading to speculations about the widening rift within the party ranks. This was the third consecutive core group meeting that Koshiyari has missed.

Displeasure in the ranks

Sources say the party high command has taken note of this growing factionalism and senior leader and state in-charge JP Nadda and Dharmendra Pradhan are likely to hold a meeting with Koshiyari and Khanduri on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Even Bahuguna is expected to meet these leaders. Insiders claim the two former chief ministers have been particularly furious with the latest developments and how Congress rebels, who recently joined BJP, are being given preference over other senior BJP leaders.

Adding to this uncertainty, BJP state chief and leader of opposition in the Vidhan Sabha, Ajay Bhatt recently said that the party doesn't have a face to lead the assembly elections in the state.

These are BJP's stalwarts who have been crucial in bringing the party to power and if they are ignored, it is bound to have some repercussions," said a BJP leader from Uttarakhand.

He went on to add that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's diktat of not giving any prominent positions to anyone who is 75 or above could also be the reason why these veterans are being sidelined from the party.

While Khanduri will turn 82 later this year, Koshiyari is 74-year-old and does not fit the criterion laid out by the prime minister himself. With other former BJP Chief Minister Nishank facing serious allegations of corruption, he is likely to not be allotted a crucial role.

BJP is wary of giving him a prominent role since Congress is likely to raise the issue of widespread corruption during his stint as chief minister.

"If they think we will not attack them over Bahuguna, Harak Singh Rawat, among other rebels, who have joined BJP, they are mistaken. BJP seems to have forgotten that it was they who had levelled serious allegations of corruption against Bahuguna and Rawat. Just because they have joined BJP, now they have become honest. We will target these individuals too," said Jot Singh Bisht, state vice president of Congress.

Partial relief

These incidents have provided some relief to the Congress that is itself facing factionalism in its ranks with many senior leaders voicing their dissatisfaction over Chief Minister Harish Rawat's style of functioning.

Earlier, the rebel faction too had levelled similar charges against the chief minister and when their repeated pleas to remove him were not entertained by the Congress high command, they rebelled.

As a result, the Congress government no longer had the majority in the assembly pushing the state into a political turmoil after the Centre invoked President's Rule.

It was later set aside by the Nainital High Court and the Supreme Court. Finally, the Congress government was restored, but the party has not yet been able to sort out discontent in its ranks.

Months after the political turmoil, Congress has not yet been able to put its house in order. Differences between Rawat and state PCC president Kishor Upadhyay are well-known forcing the party high command to intervene.

Upadhyay has been repeatedly asking the chief minister to give cabinet berths to Congress legislators instead of that of the Progressive Democratic Front (PDF) - coalition partner of the Congress government. However, Rawat has opposed his suggestions.

Meanwhile, internal differences within the BJP have raised hopes of Congress leaders of staging a comeback considering how two of party senior most leaders are on the verge of a revolt.

Referring to Khanduri and Koshiyari as the foundation on which the BJP's state unit rests, Bisht said, "The foundation is being removed and this will ensure that the entire structure will collapse. BJP is on a self-destruct mode and we are more than pleased with these developments."

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

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First published: 7 September 2016, 16:38 IST