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HindustanTimes Sun,31 Aug 2014

After 12-yr-long wait, a rough road ahead for Rawat

Anupam Trivedi, Hindustan Times  Dehradun, February 01, 2014
First Published: 20:52 IST(1/2/2014) | Last Updated: 20:56 IST(1/2/2014)

In March 2002, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was expecting a landslide victory in the first assembly polls in newly created Uttrakhand.

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But surprisingly, the Congress emerged as the winner. Even though the then Congress president, Harish Rawat, was credited for the victory, the chief minister's post went to veteran leader ND Tiwari, who was otherwise living in oblivion.

This kick-started an ugly bickering over leadership roles in the state Congress, and the fight is still on despite changes in the power centres. Rawat and the MLAs supporting him were blamed for shaking the Tiwari government on several occasions.

In fact, it has been a 12-year-long wait for Rawat before he finally bagged the coveted post. There are apprehensions that a section of Congress leaders may apply the same pressure tactics on Rawat.

The 13-year-old state has seen seven chief ministers in eight terms. The race to power started when BJP's Nityanand Swami was given the reins of the state on November 9, 2000. Surprisingly, from day one, senior BJP leaders started raising voices against Swami, tagging him as "outsider".

Swami was finally removed within 11 months and Bhagat Singh Koshyari replaced him. But this government, too, lasted for only four months.

Then came Tiwari, the only chief minister whose government in the hill state completed full five years in office. Apart from Tiwari, all other chief ministers were forced to vacate office midway.

In 2007, the BJP was voted to power, but a cold war brewing between BC Khanduri and Koshyari sowed the seeds of another bitter political battle.

The BJP, however, ignored Koshyari, who had a bigger support-base, and made Khanduri the chief minister. In less than two years’ time Khanduri was replaced by another MLA Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who was again replaced by Khanduri in 2011.

After the 2012 assembly polls, the Congress was ahead of the BJP by just one vote. Ignoring the sentiments of the MLA, the Congress high command dumped Rawat and picked Vijay Bahuguna to lead the minority government. In less than two years’ time, Bahuguna, too, started facing opposition from his own partymen.

Rawat was finally anointed the chief minister on Saturday. A high-voltage drama witnessed on his ‘big day’ during the Congress legislative party (CLP) meet, however, suggested that it won’t to be cakewalk for the septuagenarian leader whose political career has been a roller-coaster ride.

Leading a minority government with several ambitious leaders, Rawat will have to pass the litmus test to keep everyone happy.

Moreover, he also has to meet the expectations of the party high command and convince it that he can unite the warring party leaders ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. Besides, he is also seen as a political leader with a vision for the development of hilly areas.

"It's a dual pressure on Rawat. His first litmus test will be the Lok Sabha polls. He has to prove that he can ensure the Congress’s victory. Secondly, the state's financial health is in a shambles. Rawat will also have to work on this," observes political commentator Jay Singh Rawat.


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