On Saturday morning, senior Uttarakhand minister Yashpal Arya received an unexpected guest at his residence — Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami. Over breakfast, both leaders shared thoughts on undisclosed “important issues”.
The ‘breakfast diplomacy’ checks with hints from Congress sources that Arya and his MLA son could return to the grand old party in coming weeks. Arya, a prominent Dalit leader, had switched over to the BJP six years ago when the Congress refused to field his son.
“There is nothing new in leaders switching sides. Dalits are going to play a crucial role in the state (elections),” Yashpal Arya said after his meeting with Dhami when asked if he is joining Congress. CM Dhami downplayed the meeting and said it was a courtesy call “as he (Arya) is a senior leader of the party”.
What Lies Ahead For BJP?
Uttarakhand assembly elections are due early next year. The ruling BJP got a thumping majority with 57 seats in the 70-member House in 2017. However, despite a strong mandate, the intra-party squabbling and governance issues forced the saffron party to change chief ministers twice since March this year.
No party has enjoyed consecutive terms in Uttarakhand, but the BJP is hoping to break that jinx next year. “We will form the next government. Barring former chief minister Harish Rawat and few others, almost every single Congress leader intends to join the BJP,” Rajya Sabha MP and BJP national media in-charge Anil Baluni said.
In the last few weeks, two MLAs – one Independent and one from the Congress — joined the BJP, and if party insiders are to be believed, two more MLAs are likely to join soon.
Countering Baluni’s claim, Congress state president Ganesh Godiyal said it is the BJP that will suffer mass exodus in the coming days.
In a statement construed as feelers to BJP’s Yashpal Arya, senior Congress leader and former CM Harish Rawat had recently said: “I wish to see a Dalit as Chief Minister in Uttarakhand.”
Interestingly, Rawat’s party colleagues say the Congress could have accomplished it a long time ago. Leader of Opposition Pritam Singh said there was a chance in 2012 when Yashpal Arya could have been made CM when the Congress formed the government.
BJP’s Anil Baluni concurred, saying, “Dalit appeasement is aimed to lure voters. Harish Rawat was himself against the idea when the opportunity presented nine years ago.”