DEHRADUN (TIP): Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, 66, has finally paid the price for the shoddy relief and rehabilitation work carried out by his government after last year’s flash floods.

He drove down to Dehradun Raj Bhawan on January 31 and handed over his resignation to Governor Aziz Qureshi. Union minister Harish Rawat, who claims to enjoy the backing of a majority of the Congress lawmakers in the state, is the frontrunner in the race to replace Bahuguna. Bahuguna’s removal has been on the cards for quite some time, and is being viewed as part of the organizational revamp being undertaken by the Congress leadership ahead of the national elections, due by May this year.

The party had earlier changed the state presidents of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Bahauguna, a surprise pick for the Uttarakhand chief minister’s post after the polls held in March 2012 had thrown a hung assembly, has earned a lot of flak for his poor handling of the relief work undertaken by his government after the natural calamity that wreaked havoc in large parts of Tehri district. He got a taste of popular disaffection against his rule in October, 2012, when his son Saket suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the BJP in the by-election to the Tehri Lok Sabha constituency.

Bahuguna’s leadership has since then been called into question. In the 2012 polls, the Congress won 32 seats in the 70-member assembly, and was only marginally ahead of the BJP, which won a seat less. Despite commanding the support of a majority of the MLAs, Mr Rawat, who too is 66-years-old, found the chief minister’s post eluding him. It was, instead, offered to Bahuguna, the MP from Tehri. The Congress government in the state has the backing of three BSP lawmakers and the lone Uttarakhand Kranti Dal legislator. Three independent legislators too have offered their support to the Congress government. Uttarakhand sends five members to the Lok Sabha, and the party had made a clean sweep in 2009. The BJP had drawn a blank.

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