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Opportunistic Offer

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Minister Harak Singh Rawat has reportedly expressed the desire to vacate his Kotdwar Vidhan Sabha seat for Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat. And he would like to contest from CM’s Pauri Lok Sabha Seat in the resulting by-election. On the face of it, this would seem a gracious and generous act on the minister’s part, but there is always more to such gestures in politics. It is an indication that he is not quite pleased with being in the State Cabinet; that there could be more trouble in the offing of the kind that resulted in Trivendra Singh Rawat’s downfall. It is a signal that any consideration being given to changing Harak Singh’s present portfolio would lead to more such posturing.

Harak Singh probably thinks it is a win-win situation, either way. If the BJP High Command takes him up on the offer, he gets around three years as a Lok Sabha MP. He would have enough time to consider his options after the results of the assembly elections. If the BJP wins, all would be well. If there are indicators of BJP losing its popularity, another strategy could be adopted. The idea is to emphasise his indispensability to all concerned. On becoming an MP, he would be able to spend time consolidating his support base independently of all factors.

This indicates that the games that led to Trivendra Singh Rawat’s ouster are not over. The hasty steps being taken by the new CM to become popular among the people, such as withdrawing cases against those booked under Covid related offences, easing conditions for people to visit the Maha Kumbh, etc., will count for little if it becomes apparent that he does not have full control over his government and ministers. The threat that – come election time – the Congress inductees might march right back to their original party will become even greater. (Whether the voters will stay with them, is another matter.) How much will the BJP open itself to such blackmail? Much will depend on how Tirath Singh Rawat performs. And, also, on whether the BJP has planned for the contingency.

The BJP would do well to ignore Harak Singh’s offer and also take back from him charge of the Forest Department, at the head of which he has been very controversial. It has to do with public perceptions – the BJP cannot be seen as weak or open to manipulation by individuals no matter how highly they rate themselves.