Vijay Bahuguna to be Uttrakhand CM

After hectic parlays, Congress high-command finally zeroed in on party MP Vijay Bahuguna as the next Chief Minister of Uttarakhand.

New Delhi: Congress MP Vijay Bahuguna, son
of late leader Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, will be the next
Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, the AICC announced on Monday ending
days of suspense over the claimant to the top job in the hill

The announcement of the choice of 65-year Bahuguna name
as the new Congress Legislature Party leader was made by AICC
General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad here.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who was authorised by
party MLAs to take a decision in the matter, chose Bahuguna
after taking the views of party MPs and MLAs, Azad told
reporters outside 10 Janpath, the residence of Gandhi, here.

"The decision has been taken that Vijay Bahuguna will be
the Leader of the Legislature Party in Uttarkhand and the new
Chief Minister", he said in the presence of Bahuguna as
well as AICC General Secretary Birender Singh, in charge of
party affairs in the state.

The choice of Bahuguna, a cousin of outgoing BJP chief
minister B C Khanduri, was made by Gandhi after the party high
command had grappled with the issue for days amid diverse
pulls and pressures created by several claimants to the top
post and demand by independent MLAs whose support is crucial
to Congress` securing majority and formation of government.
A former Judge of the Allahabad and Bombay High Courts,
Bahuguna is Vice-President of Uttarakhand unit of Congress and
is a second-term MP representing Tehri Garhwal.

Hailing from a political family, Vijay`s father was
Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh long time back and his sister
Rita Bahuguna Joshi is currently the President of the Uttar
Pradesh Congress Committee.

A beaming Bahuguna said he would take all sections of the
party along with him and that "there will be no split".

The party high command selected Bahuguna after indicating
earlier in the day that the AICC had has not closed any option
and even an MP can be considered for the top job in the

Along with Bahuguna, Union Minister Harish Rawat, PCC
chief Yashpal Arya, former state Congress Harak Singh Rawat,
party MP Satpal Maharaj, MLA Indira Hridesh were also among
the prominent contenders for the CM`s post.

After the announcement, Congress general secretary in
charge of party affairs in the state Chaudhary Birender Singh
said the party will give a letter to the Governor tomorrow
informing him that Vijay Bahuguna has been elected the CLP
leader and then a date for the swearing in ceremony will be

After his selection, Bahuguna thanked Sonia Gandhi and
Rahul Gandhi for reposing their trust in him and assured all
"friends in Congress" and the people that he will run the
government with transparencey and work towards making
Uttarakhand an "ideal" state.
Vijay Bahuguna will be the sixth Chief Minister of the
hill state which was carved out of Uttar Pradesh 12 years ago.

In the run up to choosing Bahuguna, there was a series
of meetings in the last two days in which the senior leaders
were engaged in brain storming to decide the next Uttarakhand
Chief Minister as different factions had insisted on the
candidature of their respective candidates.

Rawat`s supporters were in fact camping in the national
capital for last few days and had also met Gandhi making it
clear that they stand for the Union Minister`s candidature.

Gandhi had meetings with all the contenders at 10 Janpath
throuhout the day today.

In the 70-member House, Congress emerged as the single
largest party with 32 MLAs - four short of majority--but
managed to get the support of three MLAs of BSP, three
Independents and one MLA from Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (P).

The "unconditional" support of BSP`s three MLAs to
Congress that was announced yesterday appears to have given
the ruling party a leverage to decide on its choice of

The three indepdendent MLAs Harish Durgapal, Dinesh
Dhanai and Mantri Prasad Naithani had promised to back
Congress only if it made candidates of their choice the Chief

Naithani, a rebel Congress MLA, told reporters that he
wanted senior Congress leader Satpal Maharaj to become the new
chief minister for which he has already conveyed his views to
party president Sonia Gandhi. Dhanai had rooted for Bahuguna
as Chief Minister.

Besides, there was intense groupism in the partys` state
unit. The old Thakur-Brahmin rivlary in the state unit was
proving to be another obstacle in the choice of a leader
giving rise to speculation that PCC chief Yashpal Arya could
be a compromise candidate.

It was not the first time that factionalism in Uttarkhand
Congress delayed the formation of government. Even in 2002,
infighting between loyalists of N D Tiwari and Harish Rawat
had created problems for formation of the party government.

Rawat and Bahuguna yesterday had a two-hour meeting with
Chaudhary Birender Singh and Ghulam Nabi Azad at the latter`s
residence here.

After the meeting, Bahuguna had said "it is not about
formation of government but challenges will come after that as
well. Our opinion was sought on this."


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