TRIVENDRA SINGH Rawat was on Friday elected leader of the BJP’s legislature party in Uttarakhand, paving the way for the Doiwala MLA and former RSS pracharak to take over as chief minister of the state, as first reported by The Indian Express. Rawat’s candidature was formalised at a BJP meeting in Dehradun that was attended by various leaders, including the party’s 57 MLAs, and central observers Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Saroj Pandey and state in-charge Shyam Jaju. “I am grateful that the BJP legislature party has given me this responsibility. Ours will be a corruption-free government. Poverty eradication will be our top priority,” said Rawat, 56, whose constituency falls in the plains of Garhwal. Later, Rawat, Uttarakhand BJP chief Ajay Bhatt and several MLAs met Governor K K Paul and formally staked claim to form the government.
Rawat will take the oath of office along with his council of ministers in Dehradun on Saturday, in a ceremony that will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, and several top leaders. Speaking to The Indian Express, BJP’s Uttarakhand in-charge Jaju said that Rawat would hold a meeting with other party leaders and decide the portfolio of ministers.
“It will be an inclusive government,” said Jaju. However, that will be a formidable challenge for Rawat, going by the buzz outside the venue of Friday’s party meeting where the supporters of Satpal Maharaj and Prakash Pant, who were in the race to be CM, had gathered.
One slogan indicated that one Rawat (Congress’s Harish Rawat) had been replaced by another. If that underlined the caste divisions in the state’s politics — a Thakur replacing another — slogans by supporters of Pant reinforced the other divide. It went: “Pahad ka neta kaisa ho, Prakash Pant jaisa ho (How should a leader from the hills be? Like Prakash Pant)”.
Pant is a Brahmin from the Kumaon Hills in a state where the community comprises 25 per cent of the population. At the party meeting, though, Pant and Maharaj backed Rawat, who is said to enjoy the support of BJP president Shah and the RSS. Sources said that Rawat’s immediate task would be to accommodate the Congress rebels who won on BJP tickets this time.
Sources also said that apart from Pant, Dhan Singh Rawat, Madan Kaushik and Khajan Dass are likely to find a place in the new cabinet, apart from at least two Congress rebels Harak Singh Rawat and Yashpal Arya. Maharaj, meanwhile, is said to be pushing for a cabinet berth for his wife Amrita Rawat.