Just a month ago, it was inconceivable that a minor satrap from a small state like Uttarakhand could dare to challenge the writ of Sonia Gandhi in the Congress party. However, the large scale disillusionment with the Congress, as became evident from the rejection by the voters in the recent assembly polls, has probably forced the party men to rethink their options.
Going by the assembly election results and the likely debacles in those to come, it seems very unlikely that the much vaunted magic of the Nehru-Gandhi Parivar will lead to a UPA-3. Hence, anybody with the slightest chance of a longer innings elsewhere seems willing to exercise the option. Minister of State at the Centre for two years doesn’t seem that attractive as compared to being Chief Minister of Uttarakhand for an indeterminate period of time.
Tuesday, the day slated for the swearing-in of Uttarakhand’s nominated Chief Minister, witnessed a meltdown in the state unit of the Congress. How long the rebellion by Harish Rawat will last will only become known in the days to come, but the seeds of serious dissension have been planted for the future, not just in the state, but also elsewhere. After the poor showing, even in the Amethi-Rae Bareli bastions of the ‘dynasty’, it would seem the family has lost its mojo. Perhaps, in the bid to show that there was no hunger for power at the top, the Congress left Rahul Gandhi’s succession to the Prime Minister’s post too late. (Mulayam Singh had few such qualms with regard to making Akhilesh Chief Minister of UP.)
It is not just Harish Rawat who has come out against the selection of the Chief Minister. The Leader of the Opposition in the previous Assembly, Harak Singh Rawat, has acquired the confidence to criticise the High Command. Although Party Observer Ghulam Nabi Azad and State In-Charge Chaudhary Virendra Singh had held consultations with the Congress MLAs and the selection of Vijay Bahuguna was supposedly based on a consensus, the crib now is that the MLAs were told the MPs were out of contention. As such, they claim their choice in this regard was never taken. The decision on Bahuguna, thus, came as a surprise to them. MLAs of the Rawat faction are speaking out openly against the ‘injustice’, a challenge to the High Command unheard of before.
The BJP is waiting gleefully in the wings, not just in the state, but also on the national level. It is not just in Uttarakhand that the Congress is facing trouble from its own – the Trinamool Congress is also working to embarrass the government by bringing amendments to the mention of NCTC in the President’s Address to the Joint Session of Parliament. Further embarrassment will come if the vote of confidence is lost in the Uttarakhand Assembly by the new Chief Minister.
Whatever, the rush to form a government on the basis of deals done with rebels and others, has already left egg on the party’s face. After paying the price for support, the ‘loyalists’ will be left with little to go around. If loyalty has such little worth in the party, and the crop is to be harvested by rebels, there obviously are greater dividends to be obtained from revolt. If the High Command can do deals to form a government, why cannot the others, particularly those directly affected? The struggle for power is truly on – who blinks first remains to be seen.