While leaders of the Indian National Congress (INC) in Delhi wonder what to do with him, the Uttarakhand leadership of the party is split down the middle over the question of re-entry of former cabinet minister Harak Singh Rawat, who was expelled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on 16 January, into his old political organisation. Never mind that Harak Singh Rawat has issued an apology for his 2016 defection, Uttarakhand Congress’s election campaign head and former Chief Minister Harish Rawat and his supporters have vehemently opposed his re-entry into the party, .
“I have nothing personal against him (Harak Singh), but what he did along with other defectors in 2016 was anti-Congress, anti-democracy and against the parliamentary traditions of the country and state,” Harish Rawat said.
“Harak Singh and other party MLAs defected and tried to dislodge the Congress government with help of BJP. It was a betrayal of the people of Uttarakhand. They ditched the Congress. The party high-command has to keep that in mind before taking any decision on him,” Harish Rawat said.
In March 2016, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna had left the INC with eight other MLAs, including Harak Singh, and joined the BJP, making the strength of the then Harish Rawat government dwindle to a minority in the state assembly. This was followed by the imposition of Article 356 (President’s rule) in the state by the union government.
While Harish Rawat was able to prove that the majority was in his government’s support on the floor of the house after the Supreme Court’s intervention, the incident led to over two months of political turmoil in the state.
Meanwhile, another group of state leaders, including Leader of Opposition in Uttarakhand assembly Pritam Singh, is in support of the expelled BJP leader’s desire to return to the INC.
Pritam Singh said the final decision will be taken by the party high-command. “It’s true that Harak Singh Rawat ditched the party in 2016 but he has also apologised for that,” he said.
After his expulsion from the BJP, Harak Singh Rawat had said he would now go back to his old party.
All India Congress Committee (AICC) state in-charge Devendra Yadav said, “Harak Singh Rawat has approached us and talks are on with the AICC leadership on his induction in the party. Although Harish Rawat is opposed to the idea, we are trying to resolve the issue in the next 24 h. He had been with the party in the past.”
“The final decision rests on the Congress president irrespective of what we say,” he added.
Party sources said that even if Harak Singh is brought back into the INC, he would not get the chance to contest the 14 February state assembly election.