Curtain down on Uttarakhand upheaval, but uneasy road ahead (News Analysis)

Dehradun, May 11 (IANS) On a day the Narendra Modi government at the Centre lost face and the beleaguered Congress government in Uttarakhand won a crucial floor test, an uneasy silence pervades on Wednesday on an otherwise perfect occasion for celebrations and jubilation.

While there were celebrations, jigs and cracker bursting by Congress party workers, both sides of the political spectrum — Congress and the BJP — realise that the path ahead is not a cake walk for either.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), vanquished in the political game of one-upmanship, unleashed after nine rebel Congress legislators walked out of the treasury benches and voted against the Harish Rawat government on an Appropriation Bill on March 18 during the Budget Session of the Assembly, has since been stunned into silence.

The Centre had moved in swiftly and imposed President’s Rule in Uttarakhand on March 27, contending that Rawat had lost majority when the Congress legislators rebelled.

“It’s a hit-wicket, we got the whole scenario wrong and there is no harm in admitting that clamping of the President’s Rule in the state was ill-timed and premature; we should have rather allowed the initial trust vote to happen,” a senior BJP legislator, who did not want to be named, told IANS.

A former state minister added that the party also misinterpreted the hostility of Congress legislators against Rawat as being against the party.

This, he said, was where the party strategists erred big time.

With Harish Rawat retaining the confidence of its central leadership and emerging victorious in the initial legal battle at the Uttarakhand High Court (HC), the ousted chief minister had successfully positioned himself as the victim as well as the man in the driving seat, a political observer pointed out.

This, he added, despite the surfacing of two sting operations against him, dropping hints of horse-trading.

With nine Congress legislators, including heavyweights Harak Singh Rawat and Vijay Bahuguna, disqualified, the BJP-led ‘Operation Topple’ had lost steam and the party was reconciled to “ending up with egg on its face”.

And so despite the public bravado, BJP leaders were admitting in private of having lost the battle.

But even as the BJP licks its wounds, the Congress, too, has not anything big to cheer about.

“It’s not about the restoration of the government but what lies ahead — the restoration of faith of the people of the hill state who, in all likelihood, would question the veracity of our truthfulness in the wake of the stings,” a senior minister in the Harish Rawat government mused.

With the hill state’s economy not in the best of health, Rawat would need to walk the tight rope in his relations with the Narendra Modi-led government at the centre.

He has already spewed a lot of venom against the prime minister and the BJP.

From calling Modi a “murderer of democracy who has blood of the aspirations of the people of Uttarakhand on his hands”, Rawat’s words of reconciliation on Wednesday reflected the arduous task he has at his hand in the future.

The state goes to polls, along with neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, early next year, and both the major parties would be taking stock of their wins and losses in the just-concluded battle.

On Wednesday, the central government told the Supreme Court that ousted Chief Minister Harish Rawat had the legislative majority and his government would be restored.

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Modi, later recommended revocation of President’s Rule in the state.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

–IANS

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