Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna resigned on Friday, after he was asked by the Congress leadership on Thursday to put in his papers.
Union water resources minister Harish Rawat is likely to replace Bahuguna, who was under fire for poor handling of relief work after the flash floods last June wrecked Uttarakahnd and killed thousands of people.
Rawat, a Lok Sabha MP from Haridwar, had led a revolt against Bahuguna in March 2012 after the latter was named Uttarakhand chief minister following the party’s win in the assembly elections.
Back then, 17 of the 32 party legislators had refused to take oath as members of the assembly.
However, the Congress high command stood its ground and refused to replace Bahuguna, is the son of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister HN Bahuguna. Since then several delegations of MLAs and other leaders have routinely met the central leadership seeking Bahuguna’s ouster.
Now, with the Lok Sabha elections three months away and to cut possible electoral losses due to infighting, the Congress leadership finally decided to replace Bahuguna – especially after he was widely criticised for mishandling the relief and rehabilitation work following the flash floods.
Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad along with Congress general secretaries Janardan Dwivedi and Ambika Soni, who is also in-charge of party affairs in Uttarakhand, have been deputed as central observers to ensure smooth transition of the state leadership.
They are likely to reach Dehradun on Friday and the announcement is expected after a Congress legislative party meeting on Saturday.
Party sources said Bahuguna had been asked to ensure a one-line resolution from legislators authorising the party high command to name the new chief minister.
Talking to the media before leaving his residence for Raj Bhawan to hand over his resignation, 66-year-old Bahuguna said, “I feel great that I got a chance to serve the state.”
He said senior party leaders would meet in Dehradun on Saturday to choose the next leader of the state.
Rawat appears to have trumped other contenders for the chief minister’s post, such as state assembly speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal and state ministers Pritam Singh and Indira Hridayesh.
Rawat has also served as the state party president when ND Tiwari was chief minister between 2002 and 2007.
Meanwhile, the Congress is also looking for a new state party chief after the incumbent Yashpal Arya, who is also a minister, resigned from the post.
While choosing the state party chief and chief minister, the party usually strikes a balance between the Brahmin and Rajput castes, as also between Garhwal and Kumaon regions.
Party sources said the names of Brahmin leaders Nav Prabhat, Kishore Upadhyay and Prakash Joshi were being considered for the state party chief's post because Rawat, a Rajput leader, was to be chief minister.