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Behind Trivendra Singh Rawat’s exit: concentration of power, rule of officials, growing anti-incumbency

Centralisation of power with the Chief Minister's Office was one of the primary causes of discontent among MLAs and other party leaders.

Written by Dipankar Ghose | New Delhi |
Updated: March 10, 2021 8:38:51 am
trivendra singh rawat, trivendra singh rawat resigns, trivendra singh rawat resigns as cm, uttarakhand politics, uttarakhand new chief minister, jp nadda, uttarakhand bjp, uttarakhand news, indian expressTrivendra Singh Rawat after resigning, in Dehradun on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)

From centralisation of power to composition of his Cabinet, high-handedness of the bureaucracy to growing anti-incumbency — these were among the factors that led to BJP’s Trivendra Singh Rawat resigning as Uttarakhand Chief Minister on Tuesday, with the party likely to announce a replacement soon.

Sources in the BJP said that while the party had been aware of the growing dissent against Rawat’s leadership for a while, the decision to drop him was firmed up after the visit of BJP vice president Raman Singh and Rajya Sabha MP Dushyant Gautam to the state on March 7, where they met MLAs, RSS leaders and the Chief Minister. They told The Indian Express that the decision to remove Rawat had “almost certainly” been taken even before Singh and Gautam were sent to Dehradun.

A source said the fact that the central leaders were sent to the state was an indication that the party intended to act against Rawat. “If a solution had to be found, he could have been quietly called to Delhi. The writing was on the wall when the two big leaders were sent to Uttarakhand. What they reported back after multiple conversations simply reinforced what was already known,” the source said.

Centralisation of power with the Chief Minister’s Office was one of the primary causes of discontent among MLAs and other party leaders.

“Rawat had kept as many as 45 departments with himself, more than four or five times that of other ministers. There was anger within the party about that, besides his growing dependence on the bureaucracy to run these departments. The complaint from state leaders was that the bureaucracy was not reined in,” a senior leader said.

The Uttarakhand government’s official website shows Home, Confidential, Personnel, Vigilance and Law & Justice, among others, in a long list of departments under the CM.

Senior leaders said there was also growing anger at the stalling of a Cabinet expansion by the Chief Minister. While the Uttarakhand Cabinet can have 12 ministers, there were only seven ministers including the CM.

“Some leaders also complained that senior workers of the party were being ignored. Of the nine ministers, five — Satpal Maharaj, Harak Singh Rawat, Yashpal Arya, Subodh Uniyal and Rekha Arya — had come from the Congress,” a source said. There was also dissatisfaction among Cabinet members on the control exerted by the CM’s Office and the bureaucracy.

trivendra singh rawat, trivendra singh rawat resigns, trivendra singh rawat resigns as cm, uttarakhand politics, uttarakhand new chief minister, jp nadda, uttarakhand bjp, uttarakhand news, indian express Trivendra Singh Rawat after meeting party president J.P.Nadda at his residece in New Delhi (Express Photo: Anil Sharma)

Sources said one of the factors that the central leadership had in mind while replacing Rawat was the Assembly election due next year. Since its inception in 2000, the hill state has had four elections, with power alternating between the BJP and the Congress. With anti-incumbency a big factor ahead of the 2022 elections, the party decided to act fast.

The fact that he is not considered a mass leader only made the party’s job easier.

“Rawat does not have a bad image… no corruption stain. Even in the pandemic and the Chamoli disaster, he didn’t do a bad job. But his leadership was not inspiring momentum either, and there was a feeling that an election under him may prove difficult. Since he is not a mass leader, there is no cost attached. The feeling is that the Prime Minister and the party remain popular, so the momentum a new chief minister brings will infuse enthusiasm in the party,” a leader said.

Multiple factors are being considered as the party zeroes in on a replacement for Rawat, BJP sources said, with Prime Minister Modi, BJP president JP Nadda and Home Minister Amit Shah to take the final decision.

Sources said MPs Anil Baluni, Ajay Bhatt and Ramesh Poshriyal Nishank, and legislators Dhan Singh Rawat and Satpal Maharaj are among the frontrunners for the post of CM.

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