BJP, Congress scramble to form Uttarakhand government

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 07, 2012 12:45 hrs

Dehradun: The Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) separately tried to woo independent and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) lawmakers Wednesday as uncertainty persisted over the formation of a new government in Uttarakhand following a fractured mandate in the 70-member assembly.

The Congress said it had the first right to be invited to form the government being the single largest party with 32 members - three short of a simple majority.

But the BJP claimed it was in the race too and was in talks with non-Congress lawmakers to win their support.

The newly elected house has three independents, three BSP members and one from the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal-Panwar - who hold the key to a new government in the state.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi said the party has the numbers and should be called to form the government.

Echoing his leader's views, Uttarakhand Congress chief Yashpal Arya told reporters here: "We are the single largest party. It is a parliamentary practice that the single largest party is first invited to form the government,"

Arya expressed confidence that the Congress had the numbers to stake claim and lead the new government in the hill state where no political party managed to cross the magic figure of 35.

"We have got the numbers. We will form the government. Three independents have pledged support. We are talking with others too. Our number will touch 38. We will form the government after Holi," he said.

He said a delegation of party leaders from the state would be traveling to Delhi and meet Sonia Gandhi who will nominate the new Congress chief minister.

But the BJP, which has 31 members in the newly elected house, also claimed it had the support of independent lawmakers and would stake claim to form government.

Senior BJP leaders, former party president Rajnath Singh and Ananth Kumar, flew down to Dehradun and held a meeting to discuss a strategy to gather support to form the government

"No possibility can be ruled out," Rajnath Singh told reporter after the meeting.

Outgoing BJP Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri, who lost the election, said his party was "looking at those who are willing to support and on what terms and conditions".

"A normal procedure is there. Back channel, front channel, all channels are open," Khanduri said.

Asked about the Congress staking its claim, the chief minister said: "I don't know what they have done. As far as my knowledge goes, a party stakes its claim only after the Election Commission issues full notice."

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