Bahuguna goes one up on Rawat

The resounding victory of Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna in the bypoll for the vacant Sitarganj assembly seat has considerably weakened his bete noire the union minister Harish Rawat.  The division in the Congress rank and file was evident from day one with Bahuguna putting a virtual ban on his cabinet colleagues' visit to his constituency, who are predominantly aligned to Rawat, except the state party president Yashpal Arya.

Bahuguna, on Wednesday, made no bones about his indebtedness to Arya for the victory by handing over the victory certificate to the party chief in front of shutter bugs. Arya is being credited from selection of constituency to planning the campaign, which materialised into a huge victory, with Bahuguna trouncing his nearest rival former minister Prakash Pant of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by about 40,000 votes.

Bahuguna had surprised the rival Rawat by poaching on the sitting BJP MLA from Sitarganj Kiran Mondal, who agreed to vacate the seat for the chief minister. Bahuguna is presently member of Parliament from Tehri in Garhwal. Since Sitarganj falls in the Terai region of Kumaon hills, it was obvious from the beginning that the scheme for the chief minister's entry to the assembly was being drawn by Arya, a Dalit leader from the region.

Arya, who was slighted in the allocation of portfolios to accomodate a Rawat loyalist, now in association with Bahuguna will bounce back in the state politics, as he has once again proved his organising skills. The Congress under his presidentship in 2009 won all the five Lok Sabha seats in the state, which had led to the replacement of Maj. Gen. (retired) B C Khanduri as the BJP chief minister of the state.

With this victory, the number of Congress MLAs in the 70-member house has gone upto 33, still two short of a clear majority. The number of BJP MLAs, after Mondal's resignation  had come down to 30 from 31. The government enjoys support of the Congress rebels who won as independents and also the three Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs.
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