Sacked Uttarakhand BJP Leader Wants To Return To Congress. But, A Hurdle

Harak Singh Rawat was one of the nine Congress MLAs who rebelled against Harish Rawat's government in March 2016, reducing it to a minority.

"BJP expelled me. I didn't quit," Harak Singh Rawat told NDTV

New Delhi:

Uttarakhand leader Harak Singh Rawat, sacked from the BJP just weeks before the state election, wants to return to his former party Congress but one man appears to be in the way - Harish Rawat.

Harak Singh Rawat was one of the nine Congress MLAs who rebelled against Harish Rawat's government in March 2016, reducing it to a minority. President's rule came into force soon after. He has said that he is willing to apologise to Harish Rawat.

"Often we do things we regret. I should not have taken a decision that caused such turmoil. I shouldn't have taken such a big decision over a small issue. But circumstances were such...," Harak Singh Rawat told NDTV.

On his sudden exit from the BJP on Sunday, he said: "BJP expelled me. I didn't quit. Amit Shah had called me and said we will be friends till our last breath."

Why would the Congress trust him again, he was asked.

"I never stab anyone on the back. I do whatever I do openly," he said.

Harish Rawat, he said, would come around. 

"He spent three hours at my son's wedding. He has praised me in the past," said the former Uttarakhand minister.

But Harish Rawat made it clear that the rebels' return will not be easy.

"Those who flung Uttarakhand into turmoil for four months, they should regret what they did. Their conduct was not conducive to the health growth of Uttarakhand and damaged the prospects of the state," the Congress veteran said.

Would he accept Harak Singh Rawat's return if he expressed regret? "It will BE A conflict of interest if I speak on this. I am not the judge. The party will decide," he told NDTV.

Harish Rawat also spoke about tweets last year that set off speculation that he was on his way out. In a Twitter thread, he had spoken about feeling abandoned by his party bosses and about seeking divine guidance on the road ahead. 

"It reflects the party's internal democracy that I was able to express myself. A series of corrective steps were taken after that," Mr Rawat said.

Was it a pressure tactic to force the party into declaring him its Chief Ministerial candidate? He laughed and said: "I admit before you that do have a wish (to be Chief Minister) and I feel it will benefit the party. But the party cannot see only Uttarakhand and Harish Rawat. It has to take a collective view and its view is that everyone should contest unitedly and decide on Chief Minister after that."

He added that it was not just for Uttarakhand; he felt it would be a better strategy for the Congress to declare its Chief Ministerial candidates in all states. "But the collective decision is that there should not be any Chief Ministerial candidate," he said.

Elections in Uttarakhand, UP and three other states will take place in February-March and the results will be declared in on March 10.

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