Sonia Gandhi, president of the Indian National Congress, on Monday approved the name of Vijay Bahuguna as the new chief minister of Uttrakhand. The decision comes after a week-long stand off. The decision has come as a rude shock to the supporters of Harish Rawat who led the party campaign during the state assembly.
Vijay Bahuguna is the son of late leader Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna.
The announcement of the choice of 65-year Bahuguna name as the new Congress Legislature Party leader was made by AICC General Secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad in New Delhi.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who was authorised by party MLAs to take a decision in the matter, chose Bahuguna after taking the views of party MPs and MLAs, Azad told reporters outside 10 Janpath, the residence of Gandhi, in New Delhi.
Besides Rawat and Bahuguna, others in the fray included state unit president Yashpal Arya, Indira Hirdesh, former minister Pritam Singh and leader of opposition in the last assembly Harak Singh Rawat.
"The decision has been taken that Vijay Bahuguna will be the leader of the legislature party in Uttarkhand and the new chief minister," he said in the presence of Bahuguna as well as AICC General Secretary Birender Singh, in charge of party affairs in the state.
The choice of Bahuguna, a cousin of outgoing BJP chief minister B C Khanduri, was made by Gandhi after the party high command had grappled with the issue for days amid diverse pulls and pressures created by several claimants to the top post and demand by independent MLAs whose support is crucial to Congress' securing majority and formation of government.
A former judge of the Allahabad and Bombay high courts, Bahuguna is vice-president of the Uttarakhand unit of Congress and is a second-term MP representing Tehri Garhwal.
Hailing from a political family, Bahuguna's father was chief minister of Uttar Pradesh long time back and his sister Rita Bahuguna Joshi is currently the president of the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee.
A beaming Bahuguna said he would take all sections of the party along with him and that "there will be no split". The party high command selected Bahuguna after indicating earlier in the day that the AICC had has not closed any option and even an MP can be considered for the top job in the state.
Along with Bahuguna, Union Minister Harish Rawat, PCC chief Yashpal Arya, former state Congress Harak Singh Rawat, party MP Satpal Maharaj, MLA Indira Hridesh were also among the prominent contenders for the CM's post.
After the announcement, Congress general secretary in-charge of party affairs in the state Chaudhary Birender Singh said the party will give a letter to the governor on Tuesday informing him that Bahuguna has been elected the CLP leader and then a date for the swearing in ceremony will be finalilsed.
After his selection, Bahuguna thanked Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for reposing their trust in him and assured all "friends in the Congress" and the people that he will run the government with transparency and work towards making Uttarakhand an "ideal" state.
Bahuguna will be the sixth chief minister of the hill state, which was carved out of Uttar Pradesh 12 years ago.
In the run up to choosing Bahuguna, there was a series of meetings in the last two days in which the senior leaders were engaged in brain storming to decide the next Uttarakhand chief minister as different factions had insisted on the candidature of their respective candidates.
Rawat's supporters were in fact camping in the national capital for last few days and had also met Gandhi making it clear that they stand for the Union minister's candidature.
Gandhi had meetings with all the contenders at 10 Janpath throughout the day on Monday.
In the 70-member House, the Congress emerged as the single largest party with 32 MLAs -- four short of majority -- but managed to get the support of three MLAs of the Bahujan Samaj Party, three Independents and one MLA from Uttarakhand Kranti Dal-P.
With inputs from PTI