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After Trivendra Singh Rawat, who? A look at four front-runners

Hours before Trivendra Singh Rawat formally put in his resignation as Uttarakhand chief minister, names of some 'successors' started doing the rounds in political circles – state minister Dhan Singh Rawat, Lok Sabha MP Ajay Bhatt, Rajya Sabha MP Anil Baluni, and Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.

Written by Lalmani Verma | Dehradun |
Updated: March 10, 2021 7:58:15 am
Dhan Singh Rawat, Anil Baluni, Ajay Bhatt, Bhagat Singh Koshyari (Source: Facebook/Dhan Singh Rawat, Twitter/Anil Baluni, Express file)

Hours before Trivendra Singh Rawat formally put in his resignation as Uttarakhand chief minister, names of some ‘successors’ started doing the rounds in political circles – state minister Dhan Singh Rawat, Lok Sabha MP Ajay Bhatt, Rajya Sabha MP Anil Baluni, and Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari.

Of the four, only Dhan Singh is a member of Uttarakhand Assembly at present. A look at the four front-runners:

Dhan Singh Rawat

A first-time MLA from Srinagar, in Pauri Garhwal, Rawat, 51, was state minister (independent charge) in the Trivendra Rawat cabinet. Before joining politics, he was a full-time ABVP worker and served as its state secretary and organisation secretary from 2000 to 2004. In the government, he was considered close to ex-CM Rawat and had at times reviewed work of departments held by the latter. When Rawat cancelled his Chamoli visit on Monday and rushed to Delhi, Dhan Singh attended two events there as the CM’s representative. BJP insiders call Dhan Singh a man dedicated to party organisation. A doctorate in Political Science, he has been BJP state organisation secretary and state vice-president and Rawat during his meeting with Governor Baby Rani Maurya on Tuesday.

Trivendra Singh Rawat submitted his resignation to Governor Baby Rani Maurya (L) on Tuesday.

Ajay Bhatt

First elected MLA from Ranikhet in 1996 in UP Assembly, Bhatt was a Cabinet minister in the interim government headed by Bhagat Singh Koshiyari in 2001-2002. He won twice in the state Assembly polls – 2002 and 2012 – but the party lost power on both occasions. And the two occasions he lost — in 2007 and 2017 – the BJP formed the government. He was the Leader of Opposition from 2012-2017, and state BJP president from 2016 to 2019. Bhatt was elected to Lok Sabha in 2019 from Nainital-Udhamsingh Nagar. Popular in party for his organisation skills, Bhatt was in the race for CM post before the 2017 Assembly polls. But he lost the election, while the party won with a grand majority and Trivendra Rawat was sworn in.

Anil Baluni

A Rajya Sabha MP from Uttarakhand, Baluni is BJP’s chief spokesperson and national media in-charge. He is in the reckoning considering his long and close association with the state; his role working with Union ministers in the past to launch key infrastructure projects and his many social and development initiatives. On his invitation, many MPs and MLAs and state ministers had, in November last year, headed to their native villages in Uttarakhand to celebrate Igas, a folk festival held 11 days after Diwali. Although he is camped in Delhi, it is believed that Baluni keeps a close watch on political affairs in his home state. Rawat had met him in Delhi on Monday before his meeting with party president J P Nadda.

Bhagat Singh Koshyari

The ex-CM’s name cannot be ruled out while exploring names of probable CM, according to a senior BJP leader. A former RSS pracharak known for his simple lifestyle, Koshyari, 78, is Governor of Maharashtra and Goa at present. In 1997, he was elected a Member of UP Legislative Council. After formation of Uttarakhand, he was said to be frontrunner for the post of interim CM but Nityananda Swami was appointed instead; Koshyari worked as a minister. A few months before the first Assembly elections in the new state, the party replaced Nityananda with Koshyari but he remained in office for only five months, as BJP lost the elections. ‘Bhagat-da’, as he is known affectionately, had joined RSS at a young age. He was a pracharak for long before entering politics. He won won from Kapkot seat in 2002 and 2007 state polls, and has been BJP national vice-president and president of the Uttarakhand unit. In 2014, he was elected to Lok Sabha.

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