With former Congressmen dominating his Cabinet, Trivendra Singh Rawat was sworn in as the ninth chief minister of Uttarakhand on Saturday. He was administered the oath of office by Governor Krishna Kant Paul. The new government has been formed exactly a year after Congress rebels led by Vijay Bahuguna and Harak Singh Rawat had revolted against the then Congress government led by Harish Rawat — on March 18.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Thaawar Chand Gehlot and V K Singh, and BJP president Amit Shah were among senior party leaders present at the swearing-in ceremony. It was believed that Congress rebels, who had joined the BJP, and had caused much dissent within the saffron camp during the campaigning phase, had been cut to size after the BJP got a massive majority, winning 57 of 80 seats. Since less than a dozen of these rebels had won the polls on BJP ticket, the party, and its own winning legislators, was believed to be on a strong wicket.
But four of the seven ministers in Rawats new Cabinet are former Congressmen – Satpal Maharaj, Harak Singh Rawat, Yashpal Arya, and Subodh Uniyal. Of the two Ministers of State in the ministry, Rekha Arya was earlier in the Congress; the other MoS post went to Dhan Singh Rawat. The remaining three Cabinet ministers are Prakash Pant, Madan Kaushik and Arvind Pandey. The election of Maharaj, Harak Singh and Uniyal had become tough as they faced BJP rebels contesting against them as Independents.
The new team, including Trivendra Rawat, has four Thakur and four Brahmins and two members from the Dalit communities. On the Congress rebels in the Cabinet, the CM said, “None of them is a baaghi (rebel) — they are tyaagi (one who sacrifices). They left their ministries and came to us.
Rawat’s Cabinet has interesting combinations. Maharaj and Harak Singh are the most powerful leaders, with clout in several districts – and they are not known to be the best of friends. Dhan Singh and Harak Singh have a history of making choicest allegations against the other. Yashpal Arya, who was the Congress’s Dalit face, had joined BJP on the day tickets were announced, and got the nomination within hours. Madan Kaushik, a senior MLA, is from Haridwar, and his influence is limited mostly to this district in Garhwal. Pant belongs to Pithoragarh, a hilly town in Kumaon, and was among the CM probables — his name was doing the rounds for the post until Trivendra scored at the last minute.
After swearing-in, the new CM went to the Secretariat with his team and held the first Cabinet meeting. Taking a dig at the presence of former Congress heavyweights in the ministry, state Congress chief Kishore Upadhyaya said, “I pray for a happy future of this Cabinet of five chief ministers.”
Trivendra Singh Rawat is scheduled to visit Haridwar with his Cabinet members on Sunday and perform Ganga Aarti.