Vijay Bahuguna is struggling to find a “safe” assembly seat from where he will contest the bypoll in less than five months from now.
The Uttarakhand chief minister, who is currently an MP, will have to get himself elected to the state assembly.A major headache for him is that not many Congress MLAs are willing to vacate their seats for him. Then there’s the gnawing fear that party colleague Harish Rawat could do to Bahuguna what Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank did to B. C. Khanduri.
Clearly, winning the byelection seems to be an uphill task. Not only that, he will also have to ensure the Congress candidate’s victory from the Tehri parliamentary seat which he will vacate.
Both the tasks will be difficult because Bahuguna will have to fight a combined force of Congress leaders, who want to see his back, and also a united BJP.
The chief minister has so far received offers to contest only from those assembly constituencies where the BJP gave a close fight to the Congress in the assembly polls earlier this year.
Even the efforts of the Congress bosses to convince some of the senior leaders to vacate their assembly seat for the CM and contest from the vacated Tehri Lok Sabha seat has so far failed to cut ice.
“I was offered the Tehri parliamentary seat but I have refused it as uncertainty prevails over the survival of the UPA government (at the Centre),” a Congress leader said.
Bahuguna has got offers to contest from Raipur (Dehradun) and Narendra Nagar (Tehri) assembly seats. But both could do him in. Congress candidate Umesh Sharma won against BJP’s Trivendra Rawat by less than 400 votes in Raipur. Subodh Uniyal (Congress), too, registered a 400-vote win against BJP-supported candidate Om Gopal at Narendra Nagar.
Bahuguna, though, has limited options. For, apart from Raipur and Narendra Nagar, he would also try to avoid contesting from the seats where his bÃªte noir Rawat wields considerable influence.
The Congress enjoys a wafer-thin majority in the 70-member Uttarakhand assembly. With 32 MLAs, it is only one seat ahead of the BJP. The assembly byelection is crucial and will decide the future of the Bahuguna government.
The BJP knows this, and hence state BJP president Bishen Singh Chufal said that he would make “all efforts” to win the byelection, “which will help us form the government in the state”.
And Khanduri seems to be the perfect ammo to tank Bahuguna’s prospects. The BJP feels a sympathy wave for Khanduri following his shock defeat from Kotdwar assembly seat could do the trick.
All these developments have put Bahuguna under pressure. So much so that since assuming the hot seat on March 13, he has spent more days in Delhi than the state capital Dehradun.
It’s to be seen whether his visits pay off and the party brass works out a magic solution for him and his government to stay afloat. If Khanduri beats Bahuguna, the Congress govt in Uttarakhand could fall. For, the party has a wafer-thin majority of just one seat.