Today was one of the most challenging days for the Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat, especially after he heard about the news of sting video being released wherein he was seen horse-trading MLAs to save his government. If media reports are taken at face value, the sting operation video shows CM Rawat talking about buying MLAs. According to rebel Congress MLA Harak Singh Rawat, who has released the video, this sting operation was conducted by a local media channel.
The video has once again strengthened the voice of the opposition demanding Rawat’s ouster for running a corrupt government that doesn’t enjoy the confidence of the assembly. It’s important to note that the video was released only a couple of days ahead of the crucial 28 March when the CM will have to appear for the trust vote to prove his majority in Uttarakhand assembly.
Rebel Congress MLAs
Uneasy lies the head of Harish Rawat that had worn the crown of Chief Minister in November 2014. His worries have grown manifold since last few weeks when the nine Congress MLAs defected from the party and expressed their desire to get into the BJP fold. What followed soon was a long march to Rashtrapati Bhawan by the BJP leaders who requested the President to ask the Uttarakhand governor to dismiss the Rawat government and give the BJP time to prove their majority.
With the timely release of the sting video, which the rebel MLAs claim being shot on 23 March, the opposition has circulated the idea that Harish Rawat is “trying to arm-twist” and buy people in a desperate attempt to save his government from falling into disgrace.
At the beginning of this week, the Rawat government expelled ex-CM Vijay Bahuguna’s son Saket Bahuguna and party joint secretary Anil Gupta for indulging in “anti-party” activities. Saket rebelled against the government and joined eight others.
Earlier Allegations Against Harish Rawat
Trouble has followed Rawat wherever he went. Within few months of assuming the Chief Minister’s office, he started facing a slew of allegations. The BJP has been targeting him with malicious statements and accusations. As of today, three serious allegations have been levelled against him. Out of these, two were related to land allotment for smart city project and support to mining mafia. The CM has categorically refuted all these allegations as baseless, just like he has dubbed the sting video as fake. Rawat would do himself good to keep aside the allegations and focus on the floor test on 28 March.
The Rise of Harish Rawat
The present Uttarakhand CM has climbed the ladder after a long period of struggle. The law graduate from Lucknow University, who had joined politics during the college days, was given much credit for his role in the revival of the Congress in the state that was BJP-dominated for a long time. With his organisational skills, Harish Rawat revived the party at the block level. Under his aegis, the Congress scripted a stunning victory in 2002 assembly elections.
The same man had spearheaded a revolt against the Congress in 2012 when he was not chosen for the Chief Minister’s position. Despite being ignored by the party high command, Rawat stayed put and remained a Congress loyalist. He built his image as an articulate leader and made his presence felt in TV news debates.
If Harish can continue to display that political acumen and intelligence he had displayed during his days as a Congress worker, he can tide over the situation. However, if the video turns out to be real he has some real problems in store for him.
Top Congress leaders oppose President’s Rule in Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat called the “sting operation” fabricated and informed that he would ask the Governor to order an enquiry into 38-year-old Umesh Kumar’s (CEO and Editor-in-chief of Samachar Plus) assets. In relation to the President’s rule that was imposed in Uttarakhand after report submission by Governor K.K. Paul, top Congress leaders – Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Kapil Sibbal — have moved the High Court in Nainital against the same.