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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Disquiet in Uttarakhand BJP, CM Rawat reaches Delhi, meets party chief

The party sources said that Rawat tried to call some of the party’s MLAs to the national capital to meet the central leadership.

Written by Lalmani Verma , Liz Mathew | Dehradun, New Delhi |
Updated: March 9, 2021 8:29:23 am
Uttrakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat after meeting party president J.P.Nadda at his residece in New Delhi (Express photo by Anil Sharma)

SIMMERING DISQUIET within the ruling BJP in Uttarakhand has surfaced once again with Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat cancelling his scheduled programmes for Monday and leaving for Delhi to meet top party leaders, triggering speculation of a change in state leadership.

BJP sources told The Indian Express that Rawat was called to meet J P Nadda at his residence in the evening after the BJP president held two rounds of meetings with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the party’s national general secretary (organisation) B L Santosh and general secretary in charge of Uttarakhand Dushyant Gautam.

“Currently, the names in the race to replace Rawat are Ajay Bhatt, Dhan Singh Rawat and Anil Baluni. But a final decision on replacing Rawat will be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” said sources. A decision will be announced after a legislature party meeting, which is likely to be held Tuesday, they said.

The party sources said that Rawat tried to call some of the party’s MLAs to the national capital to meet the central leadership. But he was asked not to organise “any show of strength” and that a meeting of MLAs could be convened in the state capital. Rawat also met Baluni Monday evening.

State BJP sources said some MLAs and factions in the party have conveyed their dissatisfaction with the functioning of Rawat’s government to the central leadership and the RSS. Senior MLAs have also been demanding the expansion of the State Cabinet where three berths have been lying vacant for two years.

The party sources said that Rawat tried to call some of the party’s MLAs to the national capital to meet the central leadership

“There is unrest among a major section of party functionaries and MLAs. They are complaining that officers in districts are not paying heed to their recommendations. They are feeling ignored. In this situation, winning the next Assembly election could be a challenge,” an RSS functionary said.

“It is being explored if damage control can be done by holding meetings of the MLAs with the CM. A change of leadership is the last option,” the functionary said.

Rawat’s visit to Delhi comes with just 10 days to go for his government to complete four years, and two days after BJP national vice-president Raman Singh held a meeting of the party’s state core committee in Dehradun as an “observer” and spoke to members separately.

Raman Singh had also visited the RSS office to get feedback on the situation. “Our feedback has been given. Now it is up to the BJP leadership to take a call,” the RSS functionary said.

Following the core committee meeting, BJP state president Bansi Dhar Bhagat had rejected speculation of a change in leadership. “These rumours are only in the media, not in the party. The core committee meeting was called to discuss how to celebrate the completion of four years of the Rawat government on March 18, and how to take the government’s achievements to the people,” Bhagat had said.

However, to attend that core committee meeting, Rawat, several Ministers and a number of MLAs had rushed to Dehradun from Gairsain, the summer capital, where the Budget session was adjourned sine die, a day before the scheduled end.

In December last year, when Nadda had visited Dehradun, RSS functionaries had conveyed that the BJP can win the 2022 Assembly elections only if it takes party workers along. Rawat’s government has since come under the scanner following last month’s flood in Chamoli when it pushed to resume work on projects suspended by the apex court.

Earlier, in October 2020, the High Court had ordered a CBI probe into allegations made by a journalist in a video, accusing Rawat of allegedly getting money transferred to relatives in 2016 to back the appointment of a person in Jharkhand. The Supreme Court had stayed the order.

On Sunday, Rawat returned to Gairsain for a meeting with party district presidents on preparations for events to be held in all 75 assembly constituencies to mark four years at the helm.

“A couple of district presidents had asked the CM about the rumours. But he asked us to not pay attention to social media on this topic. He asked us to prepare for the celebration on March 18 and ensure the presence of beneficiaries of government-run schemes,” said a district president.

On Monday, Rawat was to attend two programmes, including one in Chamoli of women self-help groups to mark International Women’s Day and another in Dehradun.

Speaking to The Indian Express, the BJP’s chief spokesperson in Uttarakhand, Munna Singh Chauhan described Rawat’s Delhi visit as “routine”. “Uttarakhand is almost into the election year now, and meetings between the CM, ministers, office-bearers and national leaders are common. As the elections get closer, the frequency of such meetings and visits will increase,” said Chauhan, who is also an MLA.

Dismissing speculation of a change in leadership and rejecting reports of dissatisfaction among MLAs, Chauhan said that no legislature party meeting has been convened on Tuesday, when Rawat is scheduled to be back in Dehradun.

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