Rahul rebuke rings clear for Bahuguna

Semi Column

Having been publicly rebuked by Rahul Gandhi over the "unsolicited" advice that he take over as prime minister, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna is set to feel the repercussions in the state.

It is not the first example of Bahuguna's sycophancy towards the Gandhi family or even his first suggestion that Rahul take over the top job. He had made similar statements in Dehradun after Rahul's appointment as Congress vice-president.

Perhaps Bahuguna feels obliged to behave thus. His appointment as the CM is solely credited to his proximity to the Gandhi family, and he has never shied away from underlining that he derives his power from the high command.

Those close to Bahuguna say he had already got a state Congress resolution passed requesting Rahul to lead the country from the front. "As per the plan, Uttarakhand Congress president Yashpal Arya was supposed to make Rahul aware about this resolution (at the PCC chiefs, CLP leaders' meeting). However, the CM snatched this opportunity from his party's state president at the meeting, and it backfired," a source said.

The snub will hurt Bahuguna's standing within the state unit, that stands divided between him and Union Water Resources Minister Harish Rawat. Rawat has strong support base in the state and a good number of Congress MLAs owe their loyalty to him.

The CM had already been on the backfoot since the defeat of his son Saket in the by-election to the Tehri Lok Sabha seat held in October last year. The seat had been vacated by Bahuguna Sr after being made the CM.

Bahuguna's push for the construction of a new Assembly building at Gairsain was an attempt by him to get recognised as a leader with roots in the state's hill areas. Even for the January 14 foundation laying ceremony of that building, he had tried his best to ensure the presence of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Sonia eventually had to cancel her tour due to bad weather.

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