Uncertainty over next CM after Dhami’s loss in Uttarakhand
If Pushkar Singh Dhami is to be made Chief Minister, he will have to be elected to the house within six months which will precipitate a bye election with a sitting legislator vacating a seat.
A question over leadership has arisen in Uttarakhand despite a thumping victory by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) due to chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami’s defeat in his own constituency of Khatima, people familiar with the matter said.
A day after the party stormed back to power winning 47 of 70 seats in the state assembly, the people indicated that one section of BJP leaders started discussing the names of other leaders who could take over as CM, even as another group argued that he should continue in the top post for stabilising the government and leading the party to victory after the removal of two chief ministers in the last 12 months.
Four years into his tenure, Trivendra Singh Rawat resigned on March 9 2021, paving the way for Tirath Singh Rawat as the new chief minister, who too had to resign after 115 days in power on July 3. It was then that the 45 year old Pushkar Singh Dhami took over.
Among the names being discussed as possible replacements are former chief minister and Union minister Ramesh Pokhriyal “Nishank”, Ajay Bhatt, Satpal Maharaj, Anil Baluni, and Dhan Singh Rawat, the people cited above indicated.
One senior leader, however, said there would be no change in leadership. “The victory came under him (Dhami) as chief minister, and was in part because of his work ethic and hectic campaigning across the state. He lost because this meant he was not able to effectively campaign in his constituency.”
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Devendra Bhasin, state BJP vice president said, the decision about the next CM will be taken in the legislative party meeting under the guidance of the party high command. “The party is also sending two senior leaders as observers here who will hold talks with new MLAs, senior party leaders and get their feedback on the possible CM candidate,” Bhasin said, adding that no date has been set for the legislative party meeting thus far.
Meanwhile, two newly elected MLA’s, Kailash Gahtori from Champawat and Mohan Singh Mehra from Jageshwar, announced their support for Dhami, and offered to vacate their seats for him if the party were to choose him as chief minister again. “It is unfortunate that the CM of our state lost the election. He is energetic and the party retained power in Uttarakhand under his leadership. If the party repeats him as CM in the present situation, I would offer my seat so that he could contest and reach assembly,” said Gahtori.
Mohan Singh Mehra echoed this sentiment and said that Dhami made decisions that led the BJP to power, and brought in a wave of development in a short time. “He must be CM of the state and I am ready to leave my MLA-ship for him,” Mehra added.
If Dhami is to be made Chief Minister, he will have to be elected to the house within six months which will precipitate a bye election with a sitting legislator vacating a seat.
Dhami submitted his resignation to the state’s governor Lieutenant General (R) Gurmit Singh at Raj Bhavan, as per the norm. He will however continue as the caretaker CM till a new government is sworn in. Before the resignation, Dhami also chaired a meeting of the state cabinet, which expressed its gratitude to the people of the state for giving them a huge mandate. Dhami has also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his guidance and leadership.
On Thursday, Dhami said, “Under Modi’s leadership, we have created history today by defying the myth that BJP and Congress alternately form government in the state.”
The state has seen the BJP and the Congress alternate in power since the inception of the state in the year 2000. On this occasion however, despite an incumbent government, the BJP romped back to power with 47 seats, with the Congress at a paltry 19 seats. The Congress vote share stood at 37.9%, while the BJP had 44.3 % of the vote.
Dhami has said in the past that the first priority of a new BJP government in the state would be to focus on the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code, for which an expert committee comprising legal experts, prominent citizens and other stake holders will be formed to make a draft.
The Uniform Civil Code refers to a common set of laws governing personal matters such as marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance and succession for all citizens irrespective of religion. However this has been the centre of debate because as it stands, different laws regulate these aspects for adherents of different religions, and some have argued that the UCC is a threat to religious freedom.