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Thursday, August 05, 2021

Polls next year, Uttarakhand gets a new Chief Minister, its third in four months

Born in Pithoragarh district in September 1975, Pushkar Singh Dhami has been associated with the RSS and its affiliates for 33 years.

Written by Lalmani Verma | Dehradun |
Updated: July 4, 2021 5:33:51 am
Tirath Singh Rawat and Pushkar Singh Dhami on Saturday. (PTI)

TWO-TERM MLA from Khatima in Udham Singh Nagar district and a young face of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Uttarakhand, Pushkar Singh Dhami, will be sworn in as the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand on Sunday. He was unanimously elected on Saturday as the leader of the legislature party in a meeting at the state BJP headquarters.

Dhami, 45, will be the 11th Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, and in fact, the third in the last four months. He will replace Tirath Singh Rawat who resigned Friday night citing a constitutional crisis of not being able to be elected to the state Assembly within six months of being sworn in. He resigned after directions from the BJP’s central leadership in Delhi, where he was camping for three days till Friday evening.

At the meeting of the party legislature that started at 3 pm, outgoing Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat and party state president Madan Kaushik proposed Dhami’s candidature for the leader’s post. The proposal was supported by over half-a-dozen MLAs including former CM Trivendra Singh Rawat, Cabinet Ministers Satpal Maharaj, Harak Singh Rawat, Bansi Dhar Bhagat. As central observers, Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and BJP General Secretary D Purandeshwari oversaw the elections.

Addressing reporters after the election, Dhami, who will be the youngest CM Uttarakhand has seen till date, expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president JP Nadda for giving him this opportunity.

Born in Pithoragarh district in September 1975, Dhami has been associated with the RSS and its affiliates for 33 years. He was the Officer on Special Duty to Bhagat Singh Koshiyari (now Maharashtra Governor) when he was the Chief Minister in 2001-2002. Besides Koshiyari and BJP’s National Chief Spokesperson Anil Baluni’s support, sources said, what probably worked in Dhami’s favour is his influence in the Kumaon region, where Harish Rawat, the face of the Congress party in Uttarakhand, wields considerable political clout.

With just about eight months for Assembly elections in the state, Dhami’s term will be short, but he said he accepted the challenge. He said he was born in a border area, Khatima was his area of work, and as CM, he will work in cooperation with others. When asked about his priorities, he said, “janata ki seva aur purvavarti logon ke kaam ko aage badhana (public service and carrying forward the works started by predecessors).”

Later, Dhami, along with Kaushik, called on Governor Baby Rani Maurya. Kaushik requested her to invite Dhami to form the government. After meeting the Governor, Dhami said, “I promise that my government, administration and services will reach the last person in the queue in Uttarakhand.”

Sources in BJP said the party picked Tirath Singh Rawat in March-April — at a time when the party leadership was engrossed in Assembly election campaigns in four states and one Union Territory. “Then, the party leaders seemed to think they got the power equations and unity of the faction- ridden Uttarakhand unit right. But the choice has proved to be a mistake — neither did it bring any respite to the war in the party, nor the CM could prove himself,” said a BJP leader who handled the state in the past.

The sources said, neither the party leadership nor the state unit approached the Election Commission officially seeking a by-poll to get Tirath Singh, still a Lok Sabha MP, elected to the Assembly. “The leadership had realised we cannot go to elections with him as the CM,” said the leader.

After Tirath Singh Rawat resigned, the party did consider Anil Baluni as a prospective CM candidate. “But it seems the party did not want to get into a confusion again on his election to the Assembly… Just eight months are left for Assembly elections in the state,” another source in the party said.

Meanwhile, Congress leader and former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat hit out at the BJP for pushing the state into political instability. “The BJP’s high drama in Dehradun is an insult to the people of Uttarakhand. The Prime Minister had promised to give a double-engine government, but the state only received different CMs and no development… The BJP has added to the rising unemployment in the state,” he said.

But this is not the first time BJP has changed the CM ahead of Assembly polls. When it won a majority in 2007, B C Khanduri, who had been a Minister in Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Cabinet, was sworn in as the CM. But he had a term of just over two years; a few months before the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, the party replaced him in June 2009 with Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, who is now the Union Minister for Education.

But Nishank too lasted just two years; he was asked to resign in September 2011, and Khanduri returned as CM just five months before Assembly elections. But these changes did not help BJP and the party lost power in 2012. Khanduri himself had lost the election from Kotdwar then.

(WITH INPUTS FROM LIZ MATHEW IN NEW DELHI)

 

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