First Nitish, now Harish Rawat: BJP scores another own-goal in Uttarakhand

First, the BJP helped Nitish Kumar get rid of his rivals in Bihar.

And now it has extended the same favour to Harish Rawat in Uttarakhand.

Congress-mukt Bharat can wait, the BJP is busy making its rival parties mukt of dissenters and rebels.

Rawat should immediately send a 'thank you' note to the BJP. With its misadventure in Uttarakhand, the BJP has helped Rawat cleanse the Congress of his rivals, become the undisputed numero uno of his party's state unit, win a moral and legal victory and gain the sympathy of voters in an election year. Just a few months ago, Rawat was grappling with dissenters like Vijay Bahuguna and Harak Singh Rawat and several closet enemies. Bahuguna was simmering because of his removal from the chief minister's post for mismanaging rescue operations during floods — ironically, this is the man BJP co-opted for its mission in the hill state — and Harak had dreams of replacing the other Rawat.

File image of Amit Shah. Reuters

File image of Amit Shah. Reuters

While rebellion was brewing within the state unit, the Congress had reportedly asked Harish Rawat to step down to ensure the party remains united in the run-up to Assembly polls next year.

Perhaps, if Amit Shah's gaze had not fallen upon Uttarakhand, Harish Rawat would have either been ousted by the Congress or made to accommodate his rivals in the government.

But the BJP decided to play the Pied Piper and lured the rats out of their holes. Now that Bahuguna, Harak Singh and their eight co-conspirators have been exposed, defeated and humiliated, the chief minister has the party in his pocket. In all likelihood, riding on the moral high after the floor test, he will go out in a blaze of glory. Harish Rawat will announce a slew of populist measures and recommend an early poll. He would be hoping that the BJP's humiliation and his own legal and moral victory will power him to one more term. If that happens, Rawat will be tempted to send a bouquet to Shah.

While Shah and his Uttarakhand advisor Kailash Vijayvargia were trying to topple Rawat's government, many wondered why the BJP was keen to form a government for just a few months. The term of the current Assembly ends in February and political headwinds from Uttarakhand indicated that Rawat was on the way out, hobbled by poor performances and rising anti-incumbency. So, it was just a matter of months before BJP would have conquered the state electorally.

But, the BJP under Shah somehow loves to humiliate its rivals, it pines to grind the Opposition into dust. Around a year ago, it tried similar machinations in Bihar by fuelling the ambitions of Jitan Ram Manjhi. It encouraged a similar split and attempted a coup by supporting Manjhi's bid to remain in power in spite of the decision by JD(U) to replace him with Nitish Kumar.

Back then, Nitish emerged as a beneficiary of the BJP's misadventure. He managed to get rid of Manjhi and other dissenters in the party and win the next election, riding on a wave of sympathy and populist decisions. The BJP, on the other hand, was left with Manjhi on its back. An alliance with Manjhi ultimately turned out to be suicidal for the BJP. It would be interesting to see if the BJP now embraces Bahuguna, Harak Singh and the eight other Congress rebels or dumps them after the botched coup. If it does, the BJP would sound stupid should it rail against mismanagement of flood relief by the Congress government.

One of the defining moments of the Uttarakhand drama was the BJP's desperate effort to genuflect to Mayawati before the trust vote. Eager to get the support of her two MLAs in Uttarakhand, the BJP announced its unilateral support to the BSP in the Haridwar municipal elections. But, Behenji spurned the BJP's offer and decided to back the Congress.

This has defined the broad contours of politics in Uttar Pradesh and north India. Enthused by the outcome of the slugfest in Uttarakhand, Opposition parties will continue to strike deals to block the BJP in Parliament and defeat it in forthcoming elections. Ironically, BJP's clarion call to Rawat's enemies to unite has ended up cementing the unity of the Opposition.

With the Left and Congress putting up a tough fight in West Bengal and the DMK showing signs of resurgence in Tamil Nadu, the BJP has managed to make its rivals more powerful with its self-goal in Uttarakhand.

Perhaps, the entire anti-BJP camp in Indian politics would be tempted to send a 'thank you' note to Shah for Uttarakhand.

Updated Date: May 11, 2016 15:51 PM

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