BEATING ANTI-INCUMBENCY, the BJP became the first ruling party to be voted back to power in Uttarakhand on Thursday, winning 47 seats. However, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami lost the election from Khatima, where Congress candidate Bhuwan Chandra Kapri won by a margin of over 6,500 votes.
The Congress won 18 seats and was leading in one more in the 70-seat Assembly. According to the Election Commission data, BJP got 44.3 per cent of the votes, while the Congress got 37.9 per cent.
In 2017, the BJP had won 57 seats, Congress 11, and Independents 2.
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The BJP, which had faced criticism for changing the chief minister thrice in the last five years, had announced Dhami as its CM face. But his defeat has now left the field open. BJP sources in Delhi said while Dhami enjoys the confidence of the party’s top leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he is unlikely to be named for the top post now.
“The Prime Minister has a very positive opinion about Dhami. But, in the past, he has expressed his objection to renominating defeated leaders for key posts. So there may be a change,” said a party source familiar with the development.
Among the names that are now doing the rounds are Bansidhar Bhagat, a multi-term MLA and former state president of the BJP, Dhan Singh Rawat, an outgoing state minister, and Satpal Maharaj, also a minister in the outgoing government.
“A decision will be taken by the top leadership of the BJP in the national capital. No decision will be taken before their meeting,” said the source.
Party sources said BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, stationed in Uttarakhand even before counting day, is expected to arrive in Delhi on Friday to meet senior party leaders.
In Dehradun, asked who would be the next CM, Vijayvargiya said on Thursday: “We have internal democracy. We will choose a legislature party leader, his name will be sent to the parliamentary board which will take the final decision. Nobody can say at this point who will be the next CM, but the BJP is forming the government. Dhamiji is a very important leader, not just of the state, but of the country.”
Vijayvargiya said Dhami’s defeat reminded him of a quote by Shivaji on the death of his army chief — “gad aala pan singh gela (we won the fort but lost a lion)”.
Speaking to mediapersons at the party office in Dehradun, Dhami said the BJP had bucked the trend of alternate governments in the hill state, and written new history. He said his promise to set up a committee of experts to formulate a draft Uniform Civil Code (UCC) for Uttarakhand would be implemented soon after the BJP government takes oath in the state. This was a promise he made on the last day of the poll campaign.
Meanwhile, former Chief Minister Harish Rawat, who headed the Congress campaign in the state, also lost to BJP candidate Mohan Singh Bisht by over 17,000 votes in Lalkuwa.
In the run-up to the elections, the Congress had focussed on local issues like cheaper LPG cylinders, jobs, monetary allowance to 5 lakh families, better health facilities, and 40 per cent reservation for women in government jobs. The BJP, on the other hand, had raised issues of national security, army welfare, and religious tourism, and highlighted the work of its governments at the Centre and state.
The Assembly elections held on February 14 saw a voter turnout of 62.5 per cent.
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