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Dehradun shock to Congress

New Delhi, March 21: Satpal Maharaj, a veteran Congress leader from Uttarakhand, today joined the BJP in a move that put the state government headed by Harish Rawat in danger.

Maharaj, a diehard opponent of Rawat, was upset when the Congress high command picked him as chief minister in place of Vijay Bahuguna.

Bahuguna, who was seen as inefficient and unpopular, was told to resign in January and Maharaj had expected to get the post. He said today he felt “hurt and suffocated” in the Congress.

Maharaj, a spiritual leader with considerable following, can destabilise the Rawat government because at least seven MLAs are said to be his supporters. His wife, Amrita Rawat, is a cabinet minister.

The Congress government does not have a majority, having won 32 out of the 70 seats in the 2012 Assembly election, and depends on the support of Independent MLAs for survival.

But the destabilisation game may not play out immediately because the MLAs supporting Maharaj will have to resign first as the anti-defection law has made changing sides extremely difficult.