In a pre-poll jolt to the BJP in Uttarakhand, transport minister in the Pushkar Singh Dhami government Yashpal Arya quit the post and joined the Congress on Monday. His son and BJP sitting MLA Sanjeev Arya too did the same, marking a major political repositioning by a political veteran of the state. Uttarakhand Congress strongman Harish Rawat claimed more from the BJP would join the opposition party.
Among other things, the fact that Arya represents the Bajpur assembly constituency in the Udham Singh Nagar district – which has a significant Sikh population – is believed to have influenced his switch as many in the Sikh population are agitating against the Centre and the BJP over the farm laws and the recent Lakhimpur incident where the farmer victims belonged to the community. His son represents the nearby Nainital constituency. Both the father-son duo’s assembly segments are part of the Nainital-Udham Singh Nagar parliamentary constituency.
Arya sent his resignation to the CM early Monday morning, just before he met Rahul Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders here. He and his son also quit as BJP MLAs. There was a buzz about Arya being unhappy with the BJP and CM Dhami when the latter made a hurried visit to his ministerial colleague’s house a few days ago.
For Arya, a well-established Dalit face of Uttarakhand politics, it was a kind of repeat act of what he did on the eve of the 2017 assembly polls. At the time, he had quit as revenue minister in the Congress government and switched to the BJP as he was, among other things, peeved over the then CM Harish Rawat and the Congress’ reluctance to allot a seat to his son.
Now the father-son duo switched back with assurances of Congress tickets to both. They would work under the stewardship of the same Rawat despite their bitter bouts of the past. Yet, the seasoned political players, Rawat and Arya, locked themselves into a lingering and emotional hug before the camera flash-lights on the AICC podium, with AICC general secretaries KC Venugopal and Randeep Surjewala, as well as Congress’ state and legislature party chiefs joining the “home coming” function of the Aryas.
Ever the diplomat, Rawat recollected how Arya stood by him and the party when the Centre and some Congress defector MLAs unsuccessfully tried to topple the last Congress regime. Rawat said: “When Rahul-ji asked Arya-ji what is the difference between the BJP and the Congress, Arya-ji said the Congress has inner-party democracy which is completely absent in the BJP. I must also say Arya-ji joining the Congress also shows the growing desire of many to quit the BJP and join the Congress to fight for saving the democracy.”
Arya, who enjoyed power for a full term with the BJP and was even till recently hoping to get the saffron party’s CM post, said: “The Congress has a history of sacrifice and a legacy that we are proud to carry forward. Democracy in the country can be strengthened only if the Congress is strengthened.”