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Uttarakhand crisis: New video stings Harish Rawat, gives BJP fresh ammo

NEW DELHI: As Congress and BJP prepared for a crucial test of strength in the Uttarakhand assembly on May 10, a new purported sting video targeting deposed chief minister Harish Rawat has sparked off a fierce political row.

This comes a day before the high court is to pronounce its judgment on the fate of the nine disqualified rebel Congress MLAs. Soon after the video – allegedly showing Congress MLA Madan Singh Bisht admitting to horse-trading – was aired by a local channel in Dehradun, Rawat accused the BJP of indulging in politics of blackmail.

Bisht is purported to have said in the video that Harish Rawat was giving the money he had earned from mining to his MLAs to keep his flock together. “Your brother has this much guts to get money out of him (Harish Rawat). I have got them (Congress MLAs) the money and this conversation is between us. I have got the MLAs 25 lakh each. This was given just for the sake of kharcha paani (personal expenditure),” Bisht is seen saying in the video.

“The MLAs haven’t demanded the money. I haven’t taken a penny, you can ask Harish Rawat. I told him I won’t take money, give it to poor MLAs. 12 MLAs were paid. I told Harish Rawat to give the money to the MLAs,” he added.

Samachar Plus editor-in-chief Umesh Kumar, who released the sting, said the new video is in continuation with the old sting that shows which legislator has received how much amount of money. “They themselves are Harish Rawat supporters and they had cabinet ranks. This sting proves that horse trading is continuing in Uttarakhand and will counter Rawat’s claims that there is no horse trading,” he added.

Rawat also claimed that he is being kept under surveillance as if “I am an anti-national”, and that his phones, those of his relatives and aides were being tapped. “Our MLAs and leaders are getting threatening messages from conduits who are posing as relatives, well-wishers and acquaintances,” Rawat told reporters in Dehradun.

However, he exuded confidence about winning the trust vote. The Congress has 27 MLAs against 28 of the BJP. But, the key to the test lies in the vote of six PDF members – three independents, one UKD and two BSP – all of whom were ministers in Rawat’s government. The BJP is banking on four of them voting against Rawat, particularly after the second sting. Party sources said it would send a message that Rawat was in trouble and cast doubts on his authority, leading to his calculations going awry.

The floor test will involve 27 Congress MLAs, 28 BJP MLAs, six PDF members and one nominated member. In the absence of nine MLAs, the total would be 62, making 32 the magic figure. “The sting shows Rawat’s desperation to be chief minister. He has suffered a loss of face and there should be legal action against those involved in bribery,” said BJP spokesperson Anil Baluni.

Party leader Bhagat Singh Koshiyari held a news conference in the capital to say it was vindicated in its allegations that Rawat had indulged in horse-trading. “Earlier also there was a sting and now a new sting video has come out in which the MLA is himself saying that the chief minister is offering Rs 25-30 lakh to his own MLAs to placate them,” he said.

The Rawat government was reduced to a minority on March 18, after nine rebel Congress MLAs opposed the Appropriation Bill, along with the Opposition. The Centre then imposed President’s rule in the state.