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Nishank’s ‘Tea Party’ Raises Temperature in Uttarakhand as Factionalism Takes Root in BJP

File photo of Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat.

File photo of Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat.

Interestingly, many party MLAs and senior leaders are reported to have attended the party. The list includes state BJP President Ajay Bhatt and two former CMs Bhagat Singh Koshiari and Vijay Bahuguna. Conspicuous by his absence in the meeting was Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat.

New Delhi: This has been an unusually warm winter in Uttarakhand. The rhododendrons which generally blossom in early April have bloomed mid-winter. Winter rains have been few and far between. Snowfall has been far below the average. What has further raised political temperatures in the Doon valley is a tea-party last Sunday hosted by former Chief Minister and Haridwar MP Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.

For this reason and others as well, the epicenter of political discontent is the gateway to Devbhoomi- district Haridwar — where BJP won 9 out of 12 seats in the 2017 assembly polls.

Interestingly, many party MLAs and senior leaders are reported to have attended the party. The list includes state BJP President Ajay Bhatt and two former CMs Bhagat Singh Koshiari and Vijay Bahuguna. Conspicuous by his absence in the meeting was Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat.

Nishank supporters, however, insist it was a routine meeting of senior party office bearers who happened to be in Dehradun last Sunday.

Another MLA from Khanpur (Haridwar), Kunwar Pranav Singh Champion tweeted his reservation on the current state of affairs in the government under pressure from a senior ‘minister from the district’. Champion had rebelled against the Harish Rawat-led Congress government and was later accommodated by the BJP along with a dozen other turncoats.

Champion’s tirade against the senior minister was aimed at Haridwar MLA Madan Kaushik seen to be close to CM Rawat. Champion travelled to Delhi earlier this week to meet party president Amit Shah.

Though he rides a brute three-forth majority in the state Assembly, CM Rawat has been saddled with problems within from day one.

Three former CM’s — BC Khanduri, Nishank and Koshiari — are sitting MPs. Another former CM Vijay Bahuguna along with his MLA son has joined the party. Two tall Congress leaders Satpal Maharaj and Harak Singh Rawat who joined the BJP along with a dozen more ahead of the elections are now in Rawat cabinet.

Rawat has, however, faced stiffest challenge from Maharaj who was once a protégé of ND Tiwari. The godman-politician and former Union minister has for long nurtured chief ministerial aspirations and was seen to be the main challenger to Harish Rawat till the time he was in the Congress.

Sources close to the CM admit that an event like the “tea-party could have been avoided”, for it sends wrong signals to the party workers. “But then Nishank ji does not leave any opportunity to be in media lime-light,” says a party leader close to the CM.

The last time the BJP was in power in Uttarkhand, it had had to change the CM twice in five years in the face of growing factionalism in the party. Last time though, the party was a little short in numbers and was dependent on small parties for survival.

But despite winning a brute majority this time around, factionalism seems to be taking root before Rawat completes first year in office.