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Why Modi-Shah got rid of Rawat

By S M A KAZMI
March 11, 2021 15:24 IST
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Inability to take everyone along during his nearly four-year term led to Trivendra Singh Rawat's undoing.
He tried to take control of all major departments by holding on to more than 40 of them, but still could not deliver.
S M A Kazmi reports from Dehradun.

IMAGE: Tirath Singh Rawat signs a document after taking the oath as the new chief minister of Uttarakhand in Dehradun, March 10, 2021. Photograph: PTI Photo.
 

Former Rashthriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharak Trivendra Singh Rawat's replacement by another former RSS pracharak Tirath Singh Rawat as Uttarakhand's 10th chief minister has clearly indicated that the Bharatiya Janata Party government's 'double engine' in the state stands 'derailed'.

It will be a gigantic task for the new chief minister, who is also the Lok Sabha MP from Pauri Garhwal, to constitute his team of ministers amidst the intense rivalry and factionalism within the state BJP and to give a semblance of governance to a state which has been suffering from bureaucratic neglect, nepotism, environmental degradation and, above all, corruption.

History has repeated itself for the BJP in Uttarakhand, where once again a sitting chief minister lost his job basically due to internal bickering and calculations of the party high command to install someone who could win them the next assembly election.

However, the past record indicates that the exercise of bringing in a fresh face ahead of an assembly poll will fail miserably.

"It is a big joke being played on the people of the state and the BJP misrule cannot be washed away by these cosmetic changes, and the party has to pay a price in the assembly polls," remarks Harish Rawat, the former chief minister and senior Congress party leader.

The BJP has now replaced all its chief ministers midway since the formation of the state in November 2000.

Nityanand Swami, who headed the interim government in 2000 after the formation of the state, was replaced by Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, now Maharashtra's governor, following an uproar in the party that being a 'non-pahari' (not from the hills) Swami would be more of a liability in the first-ever assembly election held in February 2002.

But Koshiyari, who was chief minister for a few months in the run-up to the polls, failed to deliver and the Congress won the election with veteran Narain Dutt Tiwari assuming charge.

After the BJP won the 2007 assembly election, Major General B C Khanduri (retd) was brought in as chief minister, but was replaced by Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank in 2009 following a hue and cry by party MLAs led by Koshiyari against his style of functioning.

Pokhriyal was then replaced by General Khanduri again in 2011, ahead of the assembly election.

The BJP lost the 2012 assembly election by a thin margin. Chief Minister Khanduri himself lost from Kotdwar, paving the way for the Congress to form the government with the help of Independents and others.

The Congress also walked the same path after the Kedarnath deluge, replacing Vijay Bahuguna with Harish Rawat in 2014.

But the Congress lost badly in the 2017 poll, with Harish Rawat losing both the seats he contested from.

In the brief history of Uttarakhand, only N D Tiwari as Congress chief minister has completed his term.

When the BJP won the 2017 assembly election, bagging 57 out of 70 assembly segments, with Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi promising a 'double engine' government to the people, it was expected that the BJP would buck the trend.

Trivendra Singh Rawat, a close confidant of then BJP president Amit Anilchandra Shah, was chosen by the Modi-Shah duo as chief minister -- despite the heartburn of other senior party leaders.

But none had the courage to challenge Modi-Shah.

Ironically, Modi-Shah themselvespulled the rug from under Trivendra Singh Rawat's feet at a time when he thought he was steering the budget session of the Uttarakhand assembly convened by him at Gairsain, which he had declared as the summer capital of the state.

It was during the budget session that he was asked by the party bosses to rush to Dehradun along with BJP legislators and meet the party's central observers.

Dr Raman Singh, the former chief minister of Chhattisgarh, and Dushyant Gautam, the BJP general secretary in charge of Uttarakhand, arrived in Dehradun to gauge the opinion of party MLAs.

It is believed that a majority of BJP MLAs who were unhappy with the CM's style of functioning demanded a change in the state leadership.

Trivendra Singh Rawat met with BJP President Jagat Prakash Nadda and Amit Shah in New Delhi on Monday, but his explanations did not cut much ice and he was issued marching orders.

According to party insiders, there was a lot of resentment among ministers and MLAs against Trivendra Singh Rawat and although they did not come out openly for fear of disciplinary action, the simmering discontent was conveyed to the party high command.

IMAGE: Trivendra Singh Rawat addresses a press conference after tendering his resignation to Governor Baby Rani Maurya in Dehradun, March 10, 2021. Photograph: PTI Photo

Inability to take everyone along during his nearly four-year term led to Trivendra Singh Rawat's undoing.

He tried to take control of all major departments by holding on to more than 40 of them, but still could not deliver.

Three ministerial slots remained vacant during his tenure. At the onset of his term in 2017 there remained two ministerial vacancies. Later, Prakash Pant, a senior minister, died and his portfolio was not allotted to anyone else.

Trivendra Singh Rawat preferred not to fill these positions, leading to heartburn and resentment among aspiring MLAs.

A recent decision by Rawat to declare Gairsain as the third commissionerate of the state did not go well with BJP leaders from the Kumaon region.

The police lathi-charge on agitators, including women, from Karanprayag who sought the widening of a road outside the Gairsain assembly building on the opening day of the budget session was Trivendra Singh Rawat's latest undoing.

"It was a brutal action by the Rawat government on peaceful agitators. After false accusations that the agitators threw stones, cases have been registered against the villagers," says Indresh Maikhuri, secretary of the CPI-ML's Garhwal unit, who led the agitation and was brutally assaulted.

"It is an eyewash to replace Trivendra Singh Rawat with Tirath Singh Rawat and would not help the common people who are suffering from lack of governance, corruption and large scale unemployment," adds Maikhuri.

Moreover, Trivendra Singh Rawat's image as a non-performer worried the BJP bosses in Delhi.

Out of the eight ministers, five -- Satpal Maharaj, Yashpal Arya, Harak Singh Rawat, Rekha Arya and Subodh Uniyal, a former Congressman who jumped on the BJP bandwagon led by former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna in 2016 -- did not see eye to eye with Rawat on many issues.

Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj, one of the senior-most ministers in the Trivendra Singh Rawat government, would not attend functions of his department if the chief minister was present.

This internal bickering not only affected governance, but also gave a chance to bureaucrats to rule the roost.

Another important issue was a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a CBI probe into alleged corruption charges against Trivendra Singh Rawat.

The Nainital high court, hearing a petition regarding the transfer of money into the personal accounts of Trivendra Singh Rawat's aides, asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter.

The state government rushed to the Supreme Court to get a restraining order against the high court verdict.

This case is expected to come up for hearing any time now.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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