Dehradun: Tirath Singh Rawat, MP from Uttarakhand’s Pauri Garhwal, was chosen as the leader of state Bharatiya Janata Party legislature on Wednesday, March 10, paving the way for his becoming the new chief minister of the hill state. His name was announced by outgoing CM Trivendra Singh Rawat, who resigned a day earlier, following the legislature meeting.
For the Uttarakhand unit of the ruling BJP, history repeated itself when CM Trivendra Singh Rawat resigned, nine days short of completing his fourth year in office, here on Tuesday, March 9.
CM Rawat, a close confidante of Union Home Minister Amit Shah submitted his resignation to state Governor Baby Rani Maurya at 4.15 PM, joining the list of BJP CMs of Uttarakhand, none of whom have completed their full term in office.
The new CM, Tirath Singh Rawat, was the state BJP president from 2013-2015 and is currently the party's national secretary. He was also an MLA from Chaubattakhal constituency from 2012-17. His choice by the BJP comes as a surprise as he was not among the favourites.
Ironically, the axe on Trivendra Singh Rawat fell when he was driving full throttle amid the budget session of the state assembly convened by him at Gairsain, a place which he had declared as the summer capital of the state. It was during the ongoing budget session being held at Gairsain in Chamoli district on March 6 that he was asked by the party bosses to cut short and rush to Dehradun with party legislators. The budget session was to be held from March 1-10, 2021.
To the complete surprise of the Chief Minister and his coterie, two party observers namely Raman Singh, former Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh and party general secretary in-charge of Uttarakhand, Dushyant Gautam, came to Dehradun to find out the opinion of the party legislators. It is believed that majority of party legislators and ministers, who were unhappy with the style of functioning of the Chief Minister, had demanded a change in the state leadership ahead of the state Assembly polls scheduled to be held early next year.
CM Rawat’s visit to New Delhi and his meeting with party president J.P. Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday did not cut much ice and he was given marching orders.
According to party insiders, there was a lot of resentment among party legislators and ministers against CM Rawat and two central leaders, namely Rajya Sabha MP Anil Baluni and Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank sniping at him constantly. Moreover, Rawat, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ‘pracharak’ himself remained insecure – who during his nearly four year term failed to complete his own ministry as three vacant ministerial slots remained during his tenure. At the onset of his term, there remained two vacancies and later Parkash Pant, a senior minister died but those slots remained unoccupied.
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A recent decision by the CM to declare Gairsain as third commissionerate of the state comprising three districts of Garhwal and two districts of Kumaon did not go well with leaders from the Kumaon region. Not only that, a brutal police lathicharge on agitators, including women, from Karanprayag area seeking widening of a road outside Gairsain Assembly building on the opening day of the budget session were his recent undoing.
Moreover, his image as a non-performer had worried the party bosses despite the fact that BJP got a record mandate of 57 seats out of total 70 seats in the last Assembly polls held in 2017. Trivendra Singh Rawat was handpicked by Amit Shah to head the government but he probably failed to deliver as per the expectations of his mentors in New Delhi. It was also a failure of the “double engine” government which the BJP claimed would deliver in the hill state with the help of the central government.
Rawat had nothing much to claim as most of his ministers reportedly remained unhappy with his attitude and interfering nature. While most of the important portfolios like power and health were held by the CM himself, but nothing substantial was done on the ground.
Out of total eight ministers, five of them, namely Satpal Maharaj, Yashpal Arya, Harak Singh Rawat, Rekha Arya and Subodh Uniyal from Congress background, who had jumped on the BJP bandwagon led by former CM Vijay Bahuguna in 2016, did not see eye to eye with Rawaton many issues. Satpal Maharaj, Tourism Minister, one of the senior most minister was reportedly not even attending the high profile functions of his own department if the CM was present. These internal bickering within the council has adversely affected the cohesiveness of the state government.
Another important issue was the coming up of a petition seeking a CBI probe into alleged corruption charges against the CM in Supreme Court on March 10. The reputation of outgoing CM Rawat, who claimed to follow a policy of “zero tolerance” towards corruption, was tainted when the Nainital High Court, hearing a petition regarding transfer of money in the personal accounts of his close ones, asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to look into the matter. Instead of facing a probe, the state government rushed to Supreme Court to get a restraint order against the HC verdict. The case will be coming up for hearing on March 10, the day the state will witness a new face as Chief Minister.
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After submitting his resignation, Rawat had announced that a meeting of the BJP legislature party will be held at state party office in Dehradun on March 10 to elect a new leader. Central party observers Raman Singh and Dushyant Gautam are expected to steer the meeting. On being asked about the reasons for his removal, Rawat replied that one needed to go to New Delhi to get an answer to this question.
Among those who were front runners for the job included Anil Baluni, Rajya Sabha MP, who is considered close to Modi-Shah duo; Uttarakhand Higher Education Minister Dhan Singh Rawat, a former RSS man, having support of outgoing Chief Minister; Tourism Minister and senior leader Satpal Maharaj; and even Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank. However, the selection of Tirath Singh Rawat came as a shocker for many.
The Uttarakhand unit of BJP now has the dubious distinction of replacing all its’ Chief Ministers since the inception of the state. Nityanand Swami, who headed the interim government in 2000, was replaced by Bhagat Singh Koshiyari. Later in 2009, B.C.Khanduri was replaced by Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank. But, Nishank was also removed in 2011 and B.C.Khanduri reinstalled to lead the party ahead of Assembly polls of 2012. However, the party again lost by a thin margin.
The Congress party also did the same by replacing Vijay Bahuguna with Harish Rawat in 2014. It was veteran N.D.Tewari, who as Congress Chief Minister, completed his term from 2002 till 2007.