With Assembly election just a year away, Tirath Singh Rawat replaces Trivendra Singh Rawat as Chief Minister of Uttarakhand

Published : March 10, 2021 21:37 IST

Tirath Singh Rawat (centre) being greeted by outgoing Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat (right), in Dehradun on March 10. Photo: PTI

The tiny hill State of Uttarakhand, where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has always been in a strong position, continues to be a headache for the party’s central leadership, especially when election approaches. Since its creation in 2000, no BJP Chief Minister has been able to complete his term in the State. Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat was asked to resign from his post when he had just a year left for the completion of his term and Tirath Singh Rawat took over as Chief Minister on March 10.

Tirath Singh Rawat, who is the Lok Sabha MP from Pauri Garhwal, however, was a surprise choice. Ever since reports of rebellion against Trivendra Singh Rawat emerged, leaders such as Dhan Singh Rawat, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Satpal Maharaj, Ajay Bhatt and Anil Baluni, all senior leaders with considerable following, were rumoured to be in contention for the post. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Union Minister of Education, was the frontrunner because of the fact that he had served as Chief Minister earlier. However, Tirath Singh Rawat, a close confidante of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, trumped them all owing to his long association with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Known to be an strong organisational man, he has been selected by the party’s central leadership in the hope that he will be able to keep the warring factions in check and lead the party to victory in the 2022 Assembly election.

According to senior BJP leaders from Uttarakhand, the central leadership was wary of a repeat of the mistake it had committed in Jharkhand when it ignored protests by local leaders to change the then Chief Minister Raghubar Das, finally losing the State to Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-Congress combine. Said a senior BJP leader in Delhi: “Voices of discontent has been reaching us for sometime. Since there is enough time for the State elections, we thought we should not repeat the earlier mistake.”

But the practice of changing Chief Ministers just before elections has not really helped the BJP in Uttarakhand before. The examples of Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and B.C. Khanduri are there for everyone to see. Koshyari was made the Chief Minister in October 2001, replacing Nityanand Swami, who was made the Chief Minister immediately after the creation of the State amidst high drama. But replacing Swami did not help the party. It lost the election in 2002, paving the way for the Congress to come to power. N.D. Tiwari, the veteran Congress leader, became the Chief Minister then. Significantly, he was the only one to complete his term.

In 2007, the BJP came back to power and, yet again, there was high drama when B.C. Khanduri became the Chief Minister, much to the chagrin of the State’s senior leaders. Khanduri could remain Chief Minister for only two years and, in 2009, he was replaced by Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank. However, Nishank could also remain Chief Minister only for 27 months. He was removed and Khanduri was brought back as Chief Minister again, shortly before the 2012 elections. It did not help the BJP and the Congress came back to power, with Vijay Bahuguna (now in the BJP) becoming the Chief Minister. Bahuguna, however, was also replaced with Harish Rawat after the Kedarnath tragedy in 2013. He remained in office until the 2017 election, when the BJP romped home, winning 57 seats out of the total 70. Now, with just over a year left for election, it remains to be seen whether the change of guard will help the party’s fortunes this time.