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Why Uttarakhand CM's path to assembly won't be easy

By Shishir Prashant
June 16, 2021 16:45 IST
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The task for RS Rawat to enter the assembly might not be easy, especially with the ongoing situation arising out of Covid-19, lack of vaccines and allegations of poor hospital facilities, reports Shishir Prashant. 

IMAGE: Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat at a meeting with officials to review the Covid situation in state. Photograph: ANI Photo

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat's political career has been fraught with surprises.

In 2012, when the Bharatiya Janata Party lost the assembly elections under the leadership of his mentor B C Khanduri, Rawat became the state party president.

He was made the chief minister replacing Trivendra Singh Rawat in March this year, a move few foresaw.

Neither Rawat knew what triggered the change of guard.

And all of this after he was denied a ticket for the 2017 assembly elections from Chaubatakhal, which he had represented in 2012-17.

Now, all eyes are set on which assembly seat Rawat chooses to enter the Vidhan Sabha within six months of taking charge as the CM.

Nearly three months have been lost to the Maha Kumbh and Covid-19.

The task for Rawat to enter the assembly might not be easy, especially with the ongoing situation arising out of Covid-19, lack of vaccines and allegations of poor hospital facilities.

After Rawat chose not to contest the Salt assembly seat, which fell vacant due to the death of party MLA Surendra Singh Jeena last year, the BJP fielded his elder brother Mahesh Jeena in the April 17 bypolls with the hope of getting sympathy votes.

Mahesh defeated Congress's Ganga Pancholi by 4,697 votes to win the seat.

Rawat has another option -- the Gangotri constituency.

This seat has also fallen vacant after the death of BJP MLA Gopal Singh Rawa in April.

The chief minister's recent whirlwind tour of Uttarkashi district, comprising Gangotri and two other constituencies, has triggered speculation that he might take this route to enter the Vidhan Sabha.

However, Rawat is keeping his cards close to his chest.

Besides Uttarkashi, he also toured Pithoragarh, Champawat and Tehri to take stock of the situation.

He even wore a PPE kit to meet Covid patients in hospitals. Local leaders in Gangotri met the chief minister and urged him to contest from there, sources said.

Manveer Singh Chauhan, state BJP media in-charge, said a decision on the issue would be taken shortly.

"There are indications that the CM would like to contest elections from Gangotri. The main reason is that he does not want 2-3 elections now as he would also be vacating his Pauri parliamentary seat which he represents in the Lok Sabha," a top BJP leader said.

Meanwhile, Rawat is treading cautiously.

Even the BJP high command is learnt to be worried about the election.

The BJP wants to ensure victory at all cost as defeat may mean a big embarrassment ahead of the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur scheduled next year.

The BJP high command sent party's general secretary (organisational) B L Santosh to Dehradun to hold a core committee meeting last week.

Santosh spoke with several party MLAs and leaders to gauge the mood and suggested various steps, such as instilling confidence among fear-stricken people who are unable to come to terms with the Covid pandemic that has already claimed more than 6,500 lives in the state.

However, a section of BJP leaders admitted that the Covid situation remained highly volatile after single-day fresh positive cases rose to 9,642 on May 7, which was the highest since the outbreak of the pandemic in March last year.

Though the situation is now improving, fear and anger in the minds of people in the state can be seen if one talks to family members of those who lost their lives.

"I couldn't provide proper medical treatment to my wife as all ICUs were occupied. By the time we got a proper facility, it was too late," said a distraught S K Sharma, a retired scientist.

A more shocking video emerged from Uttarkashi recently where dogs were seen dragging half-burnt bodies from a crematorium. Residents of the district slammed the administration for their callousness after the video went viral.

One factor worrying BJP leaders is that priests of the Chardham shrines and other temples in Garhwal are up in arms against the government's decision to set up the Devasthanam Board for better management of the 51 temples, including four Chardham shrines.

CM Rawat has already assured priests that he would review the decision.

The priests claimed that the Devasthanam Board is against the spirit of their ancestral rights, which provide direct management of these temples to them.

The decision to set up the Devasthanam Board was taken by former Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat on the lines of Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board.

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Shishir Prashant in Dehradun
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