By ARUN PRATAP SINGH
DEHRADUN, 11 Oct: Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami’s response to Arya’s switch back to Congress today was rather poetic. Attending a function, Dhami was asked by reporters to comment upon Arya’s exit. He responded to the question with a couplet in Urdu implying that none had been able to stop one from leaving and none was so eager to stop one from leaving. He said that the BJP had given due respect to everyone in the party and treated even those coming from other parties like family members. He also asserted that BJP’s principle was nation first, organisation, second, and person, third. Anyone leaving the BJP could be leaving because of not agreeing with this principle, Dhami claimed. Apart from Dhami, there has been no official reaction from the party over the exit of Arya, though some party spokespersons claimed that this was no major loss for the party. They alleged that, perhaps, Arya had become over ambitious. BJP sources also countered that some senior Congress leaders would be joining the BJP in the coming days.
Congress leaders, on the other hand, have welcomed Arya’s return to the party. Salman Khurshid, currently in Haldwani on a personal tour, said that Arya’s return to Congress indicated that the party would win the upcoming assembly elections in Uttarakhand. Yashpal Arya and Sanjeev Arya, after joining the Congress at Congress Headquarters in New Delhi, also made it a point to visit Harish Rawat’s residence there. It may be recalled that the differences with Harish Rawat had actually led Arya to leave the Congress and join the BJP five years ago. Congress spokesperson Sujata Paul claimed that Arya was feeling suffocated in the BJP due to its lack of democracy. However, the CM did appear to be a little disturbed by the incident, though the speculation regarding Arya’s imminent exit had been floating for a while. Dhami had one morning even paid a surprise visit on Arya in order to change his mind. However, since yesterday, with Arya reaching Delhi with his MLA son Sanjeev Arya, who also joined Congress, clear indications were available. It was yesterday evening that Arya had met the de facto Congress President Rahul Gandhi at his residence and during the course of that meeting, his return to Congress along with his MLA son Sanjeev Arya was finalised. So, the BJP leadership had become aware yesterday evening itself that Arya was leaving the party. This morning, Arya tendered his resignation as minister. It is undeniable that the exit of cabinet minister Yashpal Arya, who today returned to Congress after a gap of five years, is a significant setback for the BJP. He is a major Dalit face in Uttarakhand politics. Besides being a six time MLA, he does hold a significant hold over the electorate especially in the Udham Singh Nagar and Nainital districts. Political sources claim that there some more BJP leaders, particularly those who had joined the BJP from the Congress, who are likely to return in the coming days. Sources add that some BJP leaders of Congress origin have been mulling a return to Congress and Arya’s exit may just precipitate this. Among the names being taken, includes one more MLA whose differences with local BJP leadership are a matter of public knowledge. Political pundits have also claimed that the ongoing farmers’ agitation too might have actually triggered the exit of Arya from the BJP. Arya’s constituency Bajpur is mainly a rural constituency with agriculture as the mainstay of the local economy there. Besides this, Bazpur also has a sizeable population of Sikhs with close connections with Punjab. The perception that farmers could be angry with the BJP over the new farm laws and the recent incident in Lakhimpur Kheri probably precipitated Arya’s exit as he might have felt that joining Congress would be safer at present.