Congress and PDF MLAs in Uttarakhand were flown in choppers to an undisclosed location in Nainital today in an apparent bid by the ruling Congress to keep its flock together in the face of turmoil which Chief Minister Harish Rawat described as a virtual “encounter” by BJP.
A combined group of Congress and PDF legislators led by the Chief Minister’s Industrial Advisor Ranjit Rawat boarded three private choppers from the city’s Sahastradhara helipad giving rise to speculation that it was an attempt by Rawat to prevent the possibility of any more MLAs crossing over to the other side.
Though putting up a brave face, the fear of losing more MLAs before it takes the floor test in the state Assembly on March 28 still grips Congress and shifting its MLAs to the hills of Kumaon may be a step to ward off any such danger, observers here said.
However, Pradesh Congress leaders said not much should be read into the development, terming it as an excursion trip ahead of Holi.
“It should not be linked with politics. It is a weekend and Holi is a just a couple of days away. There are many resorts in Ramnagar and Corbett Tiger Reserve area. The MLAs may have gone there just to unwind,” state Congress Chief Spokesman Mathuradutt Joshi told PTI.
“There is no threat to government and no need to resort to such measures. Our flock is intact and will remain so,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rawat said what the BJP was trying to do in Uttarakhand was virtually like an “encounter”.
“It is a kind of encounter. First they broke the leg of a horse and now they are trying to break the legs of Uttarakhand through horse trading,” Rawat told reporters on the sidelines of a programme in the city.
However, ruling out any threat to his government, Rawat said he will prove his majority on March 28 when he has been asked by the Governor to go for a floor test.
Sources said Congress and PDF MLAs loyal to Rawat have been put up at different places in Nainital district, including Ramnagar, Kausani and Marchula.
The move comes in the wake of repeated claims by legislators of the rebel Congress group, camping in Gurgaon, that a couple of more MLAs from Rawat camp were likely to join hands with them.
Meanwhile, in a statement here former Congress veteran Satpal Maharaj, who is now with the BJP, hit back at Rawat for his charge against BJP leadership that it was trying to topple a democratically elected government saying it was exactly what Rawat did with N D Tiwari’s government in the state.
“Rawat seems to have forgotten what he used to do with Tiwari ji when he was the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand. Was it not murder of democracy to destabilise Tiwari ji’s govt? Is it democratic to deprive BJP MLA from Mussoorie Ganesh Joshi of his right to vote in the state Assembly?” Maharaj said.