From Congress to BJP and back to Congress, Yashpal Arya, who was Uttarakhand’s transport and excise minister in the Dhami government till the other day, has resigned and returned to his womb. But he is not the only one in the Land of the Gods to do so, reports Shishir Prashant.
On October 11, Yashpal Arya returned to the Congress from the Bharatiya Janata Party. By re-inducting Arya, the Congress is wooing the 18 per cent Dalit vote in the state
Just a month before the 2017 assembly elections in Uttarakhand, then irrigation minister Yashpal Arya, a prominent Dalit face in the Congress, had joined the BJP. Arya’s entry into the BJP had dealt a big blow to the Congress, then the ruling party in the state, already reeling from the shock of the desertion by 10 MLAs, who too had joined the BJP a year earlier.
In the elections, the Congress was reduced to a paltry 11 in the 70-member House as it faced the biggest humiliating defeat in the hill state. And the BJP won with a brute majority of 57 seats.
After the formation of the BJP government in 2017, everything was going smoothly for Arya, who was made cabinet minister with plum departments of transport and excise, till the farmers’ killings occurred in the Pilibhit area of Uttar Pradesh. Arya, who represented the Baajpur constituency, adjoining Pilibhit, started feeling the heat of the farmers’ wrath in his area and decided to quit the BJP.
On October 11, he returned to the Congress, calling his move a “homecoming.” This is an embarrassment to the BJP because it has lost a top Dalit leader just a few months before the assembly elections. For new chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami, it is a big shock because he had tried hard to placate Arya over a breakfast meeting a fortnight ago by offering him a bigger post after the next election.
By re-inducting Arya, the Congress is wooing the 18 per cent Dalit vote in the state.
Arya is not alone on the list of party-hoppers in Uttarakhand, where the trend of “aaya ram-gaya ram” (a Hindi term used to describe politicians who jump from one party to another in search of power and pelf) is strengthening. In the election year, Uttarakhand has now become a political arena of turncoats who are changing political parties just like seasons.
Last month, Rajkumar, a Congress MLA from Purola, had rejoined the BJP. Rajkumar’s exit from the Congress came soon after independent MLA Pritam Singh Panwar, who had the support of the Congress in Dhanaulti, had gone over to the BJP. Early this month, Ram Singh Kaira, another independent MLA from Bhimtal, joined the BJP.
Until recently state BJP leaders were blustering that the election next year would be an easy victory for the party. Now they are deflated with Arya returning to the Congress fold. Along with Arya his son Sanjiv, a BJP MLA from Nainital, has joined the Congress.
The rumour mills are agog over the future of some top BJP leaders who came from the Congress in 2016. In this regard, Umesh Sharma Kau, a BJP MLA from the Raipur seat in Dehradun, is making some noise.
Kau, along with Arya, had gone to New Delhi to join the Congress. But in the eleventh hour, the move was scuttled by former chief minister and party general secretary Harish Rawat, who is vehemently opposed to the group of the 10 MLAs who were responsible for the dismissal of his government for a brief period in 2016.
Rawat has made it clear that all those leaders in the BJP who broke ranks in 2016 and were responsible for the dismissal of his government should apologise first for their “sins”. Forest minister Harak Singh Rawat, who is part of this group, was so upset over this statement of Harish Rawat that he accused the former chief minister of favouring an “inferior” liquor brand to play with the lives of the youths in the state.
Independent observers, however, say Rawat’s demand for apology has virtually blocked the re-entry of all these MLAs into the Congress, which would not be good for the party’s prospects in the coming elections. A section of the state Congress, led by Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh, says if they want to rejoin the party, they should not be stopped. “Who are we to take a decision? Let this decision be taken by the party high command,” Singh said.
Dhami is trying hard to convince all that Arya’s exit would not affect the BJP. “The BJP is a cadre-based party. One person leaving will not affect the party’s prospects,” said Dhami.
As of now, the battle between the BJP and Congress appears to be heading for an interesting finish. Political pundits are even claiming that the hill state is heading for a hung assembly with the entry of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is offering a slew of freebies like 300 units of free power and jobs for all youths in the state.