Uttarakhand CM Vijay Bahuguna on way out as part of ‘clean-up’

BahugunaSonia Gandhi is looking for a 'neutral candidate' in order to avoid infighting in the state Congress.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna is on his way out as the party high command is learnt to have initiated the exercise to look for his successor. A change of guard is likely to take place within a few days.

Union Minister Harish Rawat, who had opposed the party's decision to appoint Bahuguna as Uttarakhand chief minister in March last year, has thrown his hat in the ring once again. However, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is reported to be looking for a "younger and neutral" candidate in order to avoid infighting in the state Congress.

While Rawat was not available for comment, his close aides confirmed that he was being consulted by the party leadership on a change of guard in Uttarakhand.

A close aide of Bahuguna in Dehradun told The Indian Express that he has "reason to believe" that the chief minister has already offered his resignation to Sonia. When contacted, however, Bahuguna denied this. "Ever since I became the chief minister, people have been talking about my replacement. I have not heard anything from the Congress president. Please let me know if you hear anything," he said.

While Bahuguna's removal has been on the cards for several months, the party's central leadership was dithering, apprehending that it could destabilise the government that enjoys a thin majority with the support of three BSP MLAs, one UKD MLA and some Independents.

But reports of the BJP's resurgence with its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi creating a buzz in the state, and the Congress's drubbing in the recent Assembly elections, have forced the party high command not to delay the decision.

Sonia had received complaints about the Bahuguna government's "mishandling" of relief and rehabilitation operations in the wake of the disaster that hit the state early this year. "Bahuguna completely failed to deliver anything to the people of Uttarakhand. He was bound to go," said a Union minister.

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