A DAY after Trivendra Singh Rawat, 60, resigned as Uttarakhand Chief Minister after nearly four years in office, his co-worker for long at the RSS and Lok Sabha member from Garhwal, Tirath Singh Rawat, was elected leader of the BJP legislature party, and took oath as Chief Minister on Wednesday.
With less than a year for Assembly elections in the state, 57-year old Tirath has his task cut out — from correcting the ‘mistakes’ which cost Trivendra his job and winning the trust of MLAs and BJP leaders to maintaining coordination between the party organisation and the government, and most importantly, breaking the jinx that no party returns to power in the hill-state.
On Wednesday, four hours after party MLAs and senior leaders including MPs arrived at a consensus over his candidature, Governor Baby Rani Maurya administered oath to Tirath Singh Rawat at a ceremony in Raj Bhavan. Party leaders said other members of the Cabinet may take oath over the next few days.
Not among the list of probables till the start of the BJP legislature party meeting, Tirath’s candidature surprised many in the party. An active RSS worker and pracharak, he was also the ABVP organisation secretary in the state, He had contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 when veteran party leader and five-term Garhwal member of Parliament BC Khanduri did not contest citing old age. Tirath won by a margin of over 3 lakh votes, defeating Khanduri’s son Manish Khanduri, who had contested on a Congress ticket.
Earlier during the day, the BJP legislature party met at the state headquarters in the presence of Dushyant Kumar Gautam, General Secretary and state-incharge, and the party’s national Vice-President Raman Singh, who was present as an observer. Tirath kept a low profile and found a seat for himself along with a few party workers in a room outside the meeting hall.
Outgoing CM Trivendra Singh Rawat himself proposed Tirath Singh Rawat’s candidature which was endorsed by 54 MLAs present in the meeting. After the meeting, Tirath along with BJP state President Bansi Dhar Bhagat and other leaders met the Governor and presented the letter of his election as leader of the BJP legislature party.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Tirath on taking the oath as Chief Minister. “He brings with him vast administrative and organisational experience. I am confident, under his leadership, the state will continue to scale new heights of progress,” the Prime Minister said in a tweet.
The BJP central leadership had asked Trivendra Rawat to step aside following disquiet among party MLAs against his functioning.
In the legislature party meeting Wednesday, both Raman Singh and Tirath praised the Trivendra Rawat government. Raman Singh said Trivendra laid a solid foundation for development in the state in the past four years. “You (Tirath) have the responsibility to build a tall building (buland imaarat) on that foundation. Certainly, the entire team will be with you and you will get the support of the central and state leadership,” Singh said.
On his part, Tirath called Trivendra his elder brother and a yashashvi mukhya mantri. He said the state witnessed all-round development during his term. “Such development work had not happened in the state in the past decade. His government gave a new dimension to development schemes. I have seen that in DISHA meetings… I will work to take these programmes to the ground,” Tirath said and added that he will take others in the party along with ‘team spirit’.
Tirath also said that he had never imagined becoming the Chief Minister and was not aware about the BJP even after working in RSS and ABVP for over seven years.
Now, Tirath will have to resign from Lok Sabha to become a member of the Uttarakhand Assembly within six months. He may contest the upcoming by-election in Salt constituency in Almora district or it may be possible that an MLA resigns to vacate a seat for him. A senior BJP leader said the party may send Trivendra to play a role in national politics.
After taking oath, Tirath visited the Shaheed Smarak and paid tribute to those who had sacrificed their life in the movement for Uttarakhand as a separate state. He said his government was committed for development of the state as per the wishes of statehood activists.