Union Water Resources Minister Harish Rawat was sworn in as Uttarakhand’s eighth chief minister at a simple ceremony at Raj Bhavan in Dehradun Saturday evening, a day after Vijay Bahuguna resigned from the post to facilitate a change of guard.
Rawat retained all the 11 ministers who were part of the Bahuguna government.
Rawat had missed his chance to become the CM of Uttarakhand’s first elected government in 2002. After the 2012 assembly elections, he again could not become the choice of his party high command for the top post.
On Saturday afternoon, the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) met and passed a resolution authorising Congress president Sonia Gandhi to select its new leader. Rawat, the MP from Haridwar, was finally selected by the party high command. “Congress president Sonia Gandhi was on tour in Karnataka. She was communicated about the resolution passed by the CLP. She made her choice in Harish Rawat,” AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said after the CLP meeting. He was accompanied by Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and AICC general secretary Ambika Soni, who is in-charge of Uttarakhand unit. Dwivedi said the CLP supported the Congress president’s choice. According to him, Vijay Bahuguna made the proposal to authorise the Congress president to select its leader at the CLP meeting.
After the CLP meeting, Rawat held talks with leaders of Progressive Democratic Front, a platform of non-Congress MLAs supporting the state government, on the power sharing arrangement in the new government. Apart from 33 MLAs, Congress enjoys support of three BSP MLAs, three Independent MLAs, and one MLA from UKD. Uttarakhand assembly has strength of 70 MLAs.
Sources said PDF wanted Rawat to induct one more minister from its quota. But that was possible only if the Congress dropped one minister from its own quota. “Rawatji was not ready. He wanted to retain all ministers of Bahuguna government. Finally PDF leaders agreed,” a Congress source said. Rawat is considered to be the state’s only Congress leader who enjoys popular support base both in Garhwal and Kumaoun regions.