Uttarakhand Cabinet minister, Harak Singh Rawat. (ANI)
New Delhi: A day after the BJP leadership expelled Uttarakhand Cabinet minister Harak Singh Rawat from the party for "anti-party activities", two ruling party MLAs -- Pradeep Batra and Pranav Singh Champion, who had joined the saffron fold along with Mr Rawat and six others in 2016 after rebelling against the then ruling Congress -- on Monday issued statements asserting they are "disciplined soldiers" of the BJP. The social media was abuzz that Mr Rawat was in touch with some of the leaders who had joined the BJP with him.
Mr Rawat, who was supposed to join the Congress on Monday, is now "awaiting" a decision from the Congress top brass on whether or not he will be inducted into the party, against which he had rebelled in 2016 before joining the BJP. In the Uttarakhand Congress, there is a sense of unease over Mr Rawat’s possible "ghar wapsi". Also, Congress’s state women’s wing chief Sarita Arya has joined the BJP and could be fielded from the Nainital Assembly seat, which was won by the BJP, but its MLA Sanjiv Arya has now joined the Congress. Elections for the 70-member Assembly in the hill state are scheduled on February 14.
The BJP claims Mr Rawat was seeking a ticket for at least two family members, including his daughter-in-law, and a shift of his Assembly seat from Kotdwar, and he was "hobnobbing" with the Congress for months after his demands were refused by the BJP leadership. After being expelled from the BJP, Harak Singh Rawat claimed the Congress was coming back to power in the state and that he was feeling "suffocated" in the BJP. He had reached New Delhi on Sunday, along with MLA Umesh Sharma Kau, to meet the BJP leadership, which was holding a meeting with the state’s core group leaders over selection of candidates for the upcoming polls. Mr Kau, considered close to Harak Singh Rawat, met Union minister Amit Shah amid speculation that the BJP could change Mr Kau’s Assembly seat this time.
Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said the BJP had tried to take Mr Rawat along and but when he began mounting pressure on the party for a ticket for himself as well as his family members, the party decided to take action against him. He also insisted the BJP was against dynasty politics and follows the path of development and nationalism.
Amid speculation about Harak Singh Rawat joining the Congress, the party’s campaign committee chief and stalwart Harish Rawat said the Congress will take a decision (on inducting Harak Singh Rawat) after considering several angles.
"If he will accept his mistakes (in) leaving the Congress, then we are ready to welcome him," said Harish Rawat, against whose government the expelled leader had rebelled along with several others, leading to the imposition of the President’s Rule.