The nine rebel Congress MLAs in Uttarakhand, led by former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, who were disqualified from the state assembly under the anti-defection law, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday ‘unconditionally’ and sought dissolution of the assembly and holding fresh polls.
The much-anticipated move came after Bahuguna, along with eight other MLAs, met the senior BJP leadership.
“All the nine rebel Congress MLAs who had raised the banner of revolt against Harish Rawat in Uttarakhand have today joined the BJP unconditionally,” Uttarakhand BJP president Ajay Bhatt said.
He said another dissident Congress MLA Rekha Arya, who had voted against Rawat during the floor test, was also to join the BJP on Wednesday but could not as she was away in Ujjain to participate in the Mahakumbh.
Making it clear that their entry into the BJP was not for any personal gain but in the state’s interest, Bahuguna said they will continue to fight for protecting the interests of the state.
“We demand that the state assembly be dissolved and fresh elections ordered immediately as the Harish Rawat government has lost the right to be in power and also lost the confidence of public,” he said.
Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bahuguna said, “He is a pragmatic leader and has unflinching commitment towards good governance and development. We have confidence in his leadership and are impressed by his working and policies of last two years.”
“We have met BJP president Amit Shah and thanked him for allowing us to join the struggle in ousting the corrupt Congress government and ending the political pollution in Uttarakhand,” he said.
Among those came to the BJP fold included former minister in the Rawat government Harak Singh Rawat, who rejoined the party after a gap of 20 years.
Besides Bahuguna and Rawat, those who joined the BJP are Amruta Rawat, Shailendra Mohan, Kunwar Pranav Singh, Subodh Uniyal, Pradeep Batra, Shaila Rani Rawat and Umesh Sharma.
Bahuguna said, “The assembly should be dissolved at the earliest, they have ‘managed’ a majority. The strength of the 71-member House will be reduced to 59 as two more MLAs are likely to be disqualified. So I think it is right that the assembly is dissolved and fresh elections ordered.”
He was hinting at Rekha Arya of Congress and Bhim Lal Arya of the BJP who had cross-voted during the floor test.
He said, “We have embarked on a mission in the service of Uttarakhand. We will work together with the BJP workers and I hope the coming times will be bring a bright future for Uttarakhand.”
Bahuguna also criticised Speaker Govind Kunjwal for playing a ‘partisan’ role in declaring the budget passed ‘despite Rawat government lacking a majority’.
“On March 18, when we voted against the Finance Bill the government lost but the speaker passed the budget by setting aside all rules and regulations,” he alleged.
“The way the BJP is talking about clean politics and transparency in politics, we are with them and will work in the interest of the state,” he said, adding no pre-conditions were set before joining the BJP and the decision was taken after listening to out ‘inner voice’.
When asked if the BJP had guaranteed the Congress rebels tickets to contest the bypolls, he said, “You ask for a guarantee when you go to seek a loan.”
Assailing the Congress leadership, he said, “The party has to introspect why it is being rejected by the masses across the country. It is because of rampant corruption and also because of the fact that Rahul Gandhi is not accessible.”
Harak Singh Rawat, a key player in the revolt, said, “We parted ways with the Congress as its government in Uttarakhand is a government of the liquor, land and mining mafia. We will take forward this struggle till we oust this corrupt regime.”
The decision to induct the Congress rebels into the BJP was taken after a meeting of party’s central leadership with its Uttarakhand core group including all former chief ministers and MPs like B C Khanduri, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.
Image: Uttarakhand state BJP chief Ajay Bhatt offers a sweet to Harak Singh Rawat who joined the BJP along with eight other Congress rebel MLAs at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photograph: Atul Yadav/PTI Photo