Tirath Singh Rawat’s term as Uttarakhand Chief Minister — that lasted just 114 days — was riddled with controversies over his remarks as well as reversal of decisions taken by his predecessor Trivendra Singh Rawat who had resigned in March after leading the state government for four years. BJP leaders justified these reversals as a correction of “mistakes” that had cost Trivendra his job.
A look at various steps of the previous state government that were overturned by Tirath Singh Rawat while at the helm:
Days after the swearing-in, the Tirath cabinet suspended Trivendra’s decision to declare the state summer capital of Gairsain as the third administrative division in the state after Garhwal and Kumaon.
While suspending the decision on the new commissionerate, the Tirath cabinet had cited “public sentiments”. The anti-incumbency generated in the Kumaon region following the announcement was one of the reasons cited by the party while seeking Trivendra’s resignation.
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In a meeting of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and saints in Haridwar Kumbh in April, Tirath had announced a review of the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Board that was constituted by Trivendra on January 15 last year.
Four prominent shrines, including Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamuntori and various other temples were brought under the purview of the board. Priests and pandas of different shrines and temples and members of VHP had been demanding to abolish the board and free temples from government control.
In the 12-member state council of ministers, two cabinet berths remained vacant since the formation of the government in 2017 and another one fell vacant after the death of finance minister Prakash Pant in 2019. Despite repeated demands from the MLAs, Trivendra did not expand the cabinet and held with him portfolios of over 50 departments.
Two days after replacing Trivendra, new CM Tirath completed the council of ministers.
Tirath, in the very first meeting of his cabinet, decided to withdraw all the cases registered during the lockdown under the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Disaster Management Act for violating the Covid-19 guidelines. Around 4,500 such cases were lodged across the state during the Trivendra regime. Many cases were against BJP workers, Congress leaders and migrants who had returned during the lockdown.
The Tirath government had canceled the celebrations that Trivendra had decided to hold in all 70 assembly constituencies on March 18 with a theme — ‘baaten kam-kaam jyada‘ — to mark the completion of four years of his government in the state. Trivendra had announced to hold a main event in his constituency Doiwala where Union Minister Nitin Gadkari was invited as chief guest. Last month, Tirath had released a booklet — ‘Seva, samarpan aur vishwas ke 100 din’, on completion of 100 days of this tenure.
The Tirath government had also issued an order to relieve those who were appointed by Trivendra as chairpersons, vice-chairperson, members, advisor in various commissions, boards and corporations with minister rank. Tirath did not make fresh appointments for these positions.
Last week, the Tirath government had announced a schedule for opening Char Dham yatra in two phases, despite a stay from the High Court on the cabinet decision that the government had taken on June 25 to open the yatra. The government later changed its decision and suspended the yatra until next orders citing the court order.
‘Modi like Ram, Krishna’
Four days after he was sworn in, Rawat, at an event in Haridwar, compared Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Lord Rama and Krishna and said that Modi will be admired like Ram and Krishna in the future. He further said that in modern times, world leaders queue up for their turn to get a photo clicked with Modi unlike previously when Indian PM and President had been standing away and could not move around.
“This is because of Modiji… I often say that Ram and Krishna were in Dwapar and Treta yuga and Ram too had worked for the society so he was admired as a god. In the coming time, we will admire Narendra Modi in the same form because of the work Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing in the country,” Rawat said.
Two days later, during a workshop organised by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Rawat contended that women wearing ripped jeans send out a wrong message to society and children. Expressing his indignation, Rawat described in detail the attire of a woman who had once travelled in a flight on the seat next to his, before going on to question her values.
“Jab unki taraf dekha to neeche gumboot they, jab aur upar dekha to ghutne fatey they, haath dekhe to kai kade they… Bachhey do saath me unke they. Maine kaha behan ji kahan jana hai… Delhi jana hai, husband kahan hai… JNU me professor hain, tum kya karti ho… main ek NGO chalati hun. NGO chalati hain, ghutne fatey dikhte hain, samaj ke beech me jaati ho, bachhey saath me hain, kya sanskar dogi? (She was wearing boots, jeans ripped on the knees, and several bracelets. She had two children travelling with her. Her husband is a professor in JNU. You run an NGO, wear jeans ripped at the knees, move about in society, children are with you, what values will you teach?),” he had said. After a huge backlash, Rawat had to apologise.
In Nainital, on March 21, Rawat said that people with fewer “units (family members)” had ended up getting less government rations during the Covid-19 lockdown as compared to those who “reproduced 20”, creating “jealousy”, saying it was their fault for not reproducing enough. Saying that the difference in allocation of rations between families had created “jalan (jealousy)”, Rawat had remarked, “… that I have got two family members, so got 10 kg, those with 20 units have got a quintal. But whose fault is that? One who reproduced 20 got a quintal, you reproduced only two. Why jealousy on that? When there was time, you reproduced only two, why not 20?”
In the same event in Nainital, Rawat praised PM Modi’s efforts in tackling Covid-19, compared it to America’s, which he said had “enslaved” India for “200 years”. The entire speech, which was shown live on Rawat’s personal Facebook account, was later taken down. But the damage was already done as the Opposition had started questioning the CM’s remark related to Indian history.
Kumbh Mela controversy
When other states were exploring containment measures following a fresh surge in Covid-19 cases, CM Rawat insisted that the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar should be “open for all”. When officers cited the Centre’s guidelines, Tirath said he would answer to PM Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president J P Nadda on this.
In his third Haridwar visit as CM on March 20, Rawat said that his government has completely removed ‘rok tok’ (impediments) for attending the Kumbh Mela. However, he maintained that Covid-19 guidelines should be followed.