Uttarakhand polls: Rahul brokers truce, Harish Rawat placated, will lead Congress campaign

Former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat will lead the Congress’s campaign in the forthcoming Assembly elections in the state. While he will virtually be the Congress’s face, the party will not officially declare him as the Chief Ministerial candidate. A decision on the Chief Minister, if the party is voted to power, will be taken by Congress president Sonia Gandhi after the elections.

The decision was taken at a meeting senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had with Rawat and senior Congress leaders from the state, including Uttarakhand chief Ganesh Godiyal, CLP leader Pritam Singh, former state Congress chief Kishore Upadhyay, Yashpal Arya and Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Tamta.

The meeting came against the backdrop of Rawat openly expressing his dissatisfaction with the organisation and even suggesting retirement from politics.

All the leaders met Gandhi separately and conveyed their views. In the end, they sat with AICC general secretary in-charge of organization K C Venugopal and AICC in- charge of the state Devender Yadav, where it was conveyed to the leaders that Rawat, who is the head of the campaign committee, will lead the party into elections and that everyone should cooperate with him.

Rawat was said to be unhappy over Yadav’s repeated pronouncements that the election would be fought under a collective leadership. He believes Yadav is siding with a group led by Pritam Singh, who he feels are ranged against him, and that Yadav is micromanaging the Congress’s campaign while Rawat is officially the party’s campaign committee chief.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Rawat appeared content with the outcome although sources said Gandhi did express his displeasure over his tweets and asked him to take everyone along. “Life for me is kadam kadam badhaye ja, Congress ke geet gaye ja,” he said. Asked about his remarks that the powers that be had “let out several crocodiles” in the “ocean of elections”, Rawat said he was referring to those in power and their instruments like the CBI and ED.

Godiyal said the elections will be led under Rawat’s leadership and that he will be the face of the campaign. He said the central leadership said that Rawat should be given all support and asserted that “he will be given a free hand.”

Rawat said the decision on the Chief Minister will be taken after the elections. The Congress Legislature Party will meet and give its opinion to the Congress president, who will appoint the CLP leader. “As the chairman of the campaign committee, I will lead. And everyone will cooperate with me in that,” he said.

Sources said a senior Congress leader, most probably a Chief Minister, will be made observer for the state. Sources said this could be Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot.

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