After a 27-month-long tenure, marked by intense politicking, Uttarakhand chief minister BC Khanduri (75) put in his papers to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh on Tuesday.
Singh has called a meeting of all BJP legislators of Uttarakhand in Delhi on Wednesday to choose a new leader for the state.
BJP sources, who did not want to be identified, said besides Khanduri’s archrival and former CM Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, health minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and tourism minister Prakash Pant were leading the race.
While Nishank has been recommended by Khanduri himself, Pant has the backing of Koshiyari.
Hand-picked by LK Advani as the chief minister in March 2007 when the BJP came to power in the state for the second time, the retired Major General finally had to exit, apparently taking responsibility for the BJP’s loss of all the five Lok Sabha seats in the state.
But although the party kept repeating the moral responsibility angle, Khanduri at a press conference on Tuesday in New Delhi hinted obliquely at sabotage by his rivals during the polls.
Khanduri had offered to resign soon after the poll results, but he was asked to stay on till the Kapkot assembly bye-election, which took place just 15 days after the Lok Sabha polls.
Koshiyari camped in Delhi 10 days ago with 13 legislators, who had offered to resign if Khanduri was not removed, threatening to undo BJP’s wafer-thin majority in the assembly.
Koshiyari himself resigned his Rajya Sabha membership, but withdrew it later when asked by the party.
Although he told Rajnath Singh that he wanted to work for the party, BJP observers said he would lobby hard on Wednesday for the CM’s post.
The BJP central leadership seems to be still undecided as on a consensus candidate, as the numbers have still not favoured either Nishank or Pant.