Dehra Dun: With exit polls showing a Congress
victory in the Uttarakhand Assembly elections, hectic lobbying
has begun in the state unit of the party for the post of chief
Spokesman Surendra Kumar admitted that lobbying for the
top post is on and said, "It is natural that everybody would
like to make some efforts."
With its state leaders camping in New Delhi, Congress
sources said the party high command may have a tough time in
choosing the new leader from the state party unit, which is
deeply divided in different groups.
Unlike the 2002 Assembly elections, when party
heavyweight N D Tiwari was chosen for the top job, this time
the political situation has significantly altered since the
former chief minister has already been ruled out of the
contention due to his poor health and certain court cases.
After him, three other top leaders Harish Rawat, Satpal
Maharaj and Vijay Bahuguna should be considered as front
runners for the race of top job, the sources said.
But since all the three leaders are Lok Sabha members,
the Congress high command may not prefer them as a choice for
the post of chief minister this time.
There were "indications" that a new leader from amongst
the MLAs can be picked instead, they said, adding that leader
of the opposition Harak Singh Rawat, Indira Hridayesh and
Yashpal Arya are top contenders.
However, party leaders were not confident that Rawat
would be able to win Rudraprayag seat this time, where he is
facing a formidable challenge from state irrigation minister
Matbar Singh Kandari, they claimed.
In case Rawat loses, then the party high command's choice
would further be restricted to Arya and Hridayesh, who are
also being backed by Tiwari, they said.
But the Harish Rawat group, which is at loggerheads with
the Tiwari group, has already started opposing Arya on grounds
that he is a Dalit leader.
"Uttarakhand is a state with majority being that of upper
castes. So naturally, we should have leader from upper caste
only," said another Congress source, who is close to Rawat.
"So who will be the king? This remains the million
dollars question in the state," a top Congress leader said.