Dehradun/New Delhi: Vijay Bahuguna has been sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Uttarakhand. It was a short ceremony on Tuesday evening, with only Mr Bahuguna taking oath. Getting his government together is likely to be less simple - in resolutely appointing Mr Bahuguna the Congress has ignored the loud rebellion of veteran leader Harish Rawat, who says he should be CM and claims he has the support of many Congress MLAs. Less than half of the Congress' 32 MLAs attended the ceremony in Dehradun.
Many of them were reportedly in Delhi with the sulking Mr Rawat, who has been looked over before by the party leadership, and has written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. He is said to have threatened to quit the party. Mr Rawat scoffs at his party saying that not too many MLAs support him. "The Congress General Secretary said Harish Rawat has the support of just six MLAs...so if that were true how come only eight Congress MLAs attended the swearing-in ceremony? Where were the rest? My point has been proved," he said to NDTV on Tuesday evening.
Mr Bahuguna, whose problems seem to have only just begun, said before being sworn in, "This is a family matter and will be solved within the family...We will convince everyone...This party is like the Himalayas, it can't be broken."
The BJP clearly thinks differently. It got one seat less than the Congress' 32 in the state and still smells a chance; BJP leaders in the state say they will still form the government in Uttarakhand. Towards that objective, the party is happy to fuel the Congress fire. Sources say Harish Rawat has already met BJP chief Nitin Gadkari; if Mr Rawat quits the Congress, the BJP is said to not be averse to supporting a government led by him.
Both the BJP and Mr Rawat's camp have officially denied any meeting, but BJP leader Dharmendra Pradhan said before Mr Bahugana was sworn in, "Bahuguna does not enjoy majority support among Congress MLAs. The Congress is breaching constitutional norms. If the Governor administers oath to Bahuguna, it will allow the Congress to indulge in horse trading to whip up support."
Here are the top 10 facts of this moment in this fast-developing story:
1) Harish Rawat, a veteran Congress leader from the hill state, has written a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi protesting against the "injustice meted out" to him. Mr Rawat contends that he should be the Chief Minister and says he has the support of a majority of the Congress's 32 MLAs. Mr Rawat is a Union Minister and he has reportedly asked Mrs Gandhi to relieve him of his ministerial duties if the party does not believe in him. There are reports that the sulking Mr Rawat might leave the Congress to form his own party along with the MLAs who support him.
2) Though Mr Rawat was a front-runner for the CM's post, the Congress picked Vijay Bahuguna for CM. Vijay Bahuguna is the brother of Rita Bahuguna Joshi, the Congress' president in neighbouring UP. Sources say though Mr Rawat enjoys the support of many MLAs, the party leadership did not pick him for CM as he had put up many rebel candidates in these elections, which the Congress had expected to win comfortably, but did not.
3) Mr Rawat is in his home in Delhi right now. He says he has the firm support of at least 11 MLAs. With him at his house are 17 Uttarakhand MLAs. Rawat supporters have been raising slogans today demanding that the party leadership do a rethink on who should be CM.
4) The Congress leadership has held an emergency meeting but has been firm that it will not change its mind. The message from Delhi is that Vijaya Bahuguna will be the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand. For the Congress, it is not as easy as making problems vanish by picking Mr Rawat instead of Mr Bahuguna. Both of these local leaders and another one, Harak Singh Rawat, enjoy pockets of influence and the party will face problems whoever it picks.
5) Harish Rawat did not attend the swearing-in ceremony in Dehradun. 17 MLAs stayed away too.
6) It is a numbers game in Uttarakhand. In the 70-seat House, neither of the two main parties got the 35 seats needed for simple majority. The Congress got 32 and has managed to stake claim with the support of seven others including three BSP MLAs and four Independents, who have made it clear that only Vijay Bahuguna is acceptable to them as CM.
7) The BJP is breathing down the Congress' neck with 31 seats. And still thinks it is in with a chance at forming the government in the state. "We have said from day one that BJP will form the government in Uttarakhand," said BJP leader Bhagat Singh Koshiyari today, from the sidelines of the Congress high drama.
8) The Congress announced that Mr Bahuguna would be CM after three days of deliberation, on Monday. The factional feud then came out in the open with Mr Rawat's supporters protesting against the announcement. Raising slogans, angry supporters of Mr Rawat gathered at his house here last night, wanted to know why he was ignored for the top slot and egged him to split the party.
9) This is the second time that Mr Rawat's claim has been ignored. About ten years ago, ND Tiwari was made the Chief Minister almost at the 11th hour by the party leadership.
10) In a bid to placate a sulking Mr Rawat, Mr Bahuguna, his sister and UPCC chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi met the union minister at his residence. Asked what transpired at the meeting with the brother-sister duo, Mr Rawat said, "They had come to console a loser".