Within the last few days, factionalism in Uttarakhand Congress has come to the fore. Harish Rawat, the party’s tallest leader in the state, complained in a sarcastic tone of ‘not getting the support of the organization’ and left the ‘relax’ from politics, after which the party high command called him to Delhi.
Dehradun: When Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s rally was held in Dehradun on December 16, it proved to be twenty-one in terms of crowd and enthusiasm from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally on the same ground. This was a big success of the election campaign of the Congress in Uttarakhand before the assembly elections.
But within a few days factionalism in Uttarakhand Congress has come to the fore. Harish Rawat, the party’s tallest leader in the state, tweeted, complaining in a sarcastic tone of ‘not getting the support of the organization’ and left the ‘relax’ from politics.
For damage control, the party high command hurriedly called the prominent leaders of Uttarakhand Congress, including Harish Rawat, to Delhi. After meeting Rahul Gandhi, Harish Rawat said that he will lead the election as the chairman of the campaign committee, in which everyone will cooperate. The decision of the chief minister’s face will be taken after the elections.
When he was telling this to the media, AICC’s Uttarakhand in-charge Devendra Yadav and Leader of Opposition Pritam Singh were also with him. So is everything all right in Uttarakhand Congress after Rahul Gandhi’s intervention? The bigger question is that what has happened in Uttarakhand Congress?
The Congress currently has two major power centers in Uttarakhand after veterans like former Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, current ministers Harak Singh Rawat and Satpal Maharaj switched to the BJP and Indira Hridayesh died. On one side is former Chief Minister Harish Rawat, who had lost the last time even after contesting the assembly from two places. Yet he is the tallest leader of Congress in Uttarakhand.
On the other side is Leader of Opposition Pritam Singh, who was the state president till last July but could not leave any mark in that role, Congress replaced him with Ganesh Godiyal, a close aide of Harish Rawat.
The party tried to strike a balance by appointing Pritam Singh as leader of opposition and Harish Rawat as the chairman of the election campaign committee, but making four working presidents including Harish Rawat’s arch rival Ranjit Rawat and ND Tiwari’s PA Aryanendra Sharma as treasurer of the Pritam Singh faction. Seen as a success.
AICC’s Uttarakhand in-charge Devendra Yadav is considered to have played an important role in giving important positions in the organization to the leaders of Harish Rawat’s opponent and Pritam Singh. In this way, the factionalism of Uttarakhand Congress is currently divided between the camps of Harish Rawat and Pritam Singh-Devendra Yadav.
An important character of this controversy is Aryanendra Sharma, who played an important role in defeating Kishore Upadhyay, who was the state president in 2017. Then after the ticket was cut, he created a lot of disturbance in the Congress building. Ranjit Rawat, who was appointed working president, has been quite an attacker against Harish Rawat and he was also one of the reasons for the defeat of the Congress in the Salt Assembly by-election held this year.
It was a big mistake of Devendra Yadav to promote such leaders of Pritam faction against Harish Rawat, for which the Congress has to bear the brunt. When these appointments were made, it was believed that Harish Rawat would open a front against Devendra Yadav sooner or later and the same thing happened.
There is no doubt that ever since Devendra Yadav got the responsibility of Uttarakhand, he has been very active at the grassroots level and is working to strengthen the party organization. He has the responsibility of uniting the party in Uttarakhand but he has gone a step ahead of his role and has himself become the center of power and factionalism.
Meanwhile, Pritam Singh is trying to live up to his new role of Leader of Opposition and is in the race for the chief minister’s post. They seem to be successful in winning the trust of Devendra Yadav. Devendra Yadav and Pritam Singh are insisting on contesting the elections under the collective leadership according to the party line.
This pair of Devendra-Pritam is the biggest obstacle in declaring Harish Rawat as the Chief Minister’s face, while Harish Rawat wants to present himself as the Chief Minister’s face by putting pressure on the party high command. In this tussle, the efforts of Congress to win Uttarakhand have suffered a setback. Party factionalism has come on the streets.
At the time when Congress leaders and workers should have surrounded the BJP, they are attacking each other by dividing into Harish Rawat and Devendra-Pritam factions.
Under the leadership of Devendra Yadav, a large team of leaders from Delhi and other states are active in Uttarakhand. Sources associated with the Congress say that due to the increasing clout of Devendra Yadav’s team over the party organization in Uttarakhand, local leaders, especially Harish Rawat’s supporters, are feeling neglected.
The people of Yadav’s team try to take local leaders under pressure in the name of Rahul Gandhi. In Rahul Gandhi’s Dehradun rally, Devendra Yadav’s team did not allow Harish Rawat supporters to climb the stage. In such circumstances, it has become difficult for the state president Godiyal and Harish Rawat to work. Regarding this, Harish Rawat has expressed his displeasure through tweet. But Rawat is not one to give up. Therefore, instead of leaving the party, he will continue to give shocks to the opponents.
The recent controversy in the Uttarakhand Congress is being linked to BJP leader and Forest Minister Harak Singh Rawat as well as former Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna’s possible attempts to return home to the Congress through Devendra Yadav and Pritam Singh.
Earlier, Yashpal Arya, who was the Transport Minister in the BJP government, has also bypassed Harish Rawat and returned to the Congress through Devendra Yadav and Pritam Singh. Harish Rawat would not like the return of Harak Singh Rawat and Vijay Bahuguna in the party and the number of candidates for the post of Chief Minister should increase.
The compulsion of the Congress is that it does not have any leader of Harish Rawat’s stature in Uttarakhand, but the party neither wants to project him as Chief Minister nor is ready to give a free hand in organization and ticket distribution.
Meanwhile, speculations are also being made that Harish Rawat will follow the path of Captain Amarinder Singh, but its hope is less. At present, Harish Rawat seems to be successful in curbing the growing clout of Devendra Yadav. The party high command has called him to Delhi immediately and asked him to lead Uttarakhand.
Although he was already given this responsibility as the chairman of the election campaign committee. Now either Devendra Yadav will come on the back foot or factionalism will increase in the party. The real test of Congress in Uttarakhand will be during ticket distribution.
(The author is a senior journalist.)
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