Maharashtra guv’s meeting may have led to Trivendra Rawat’s exit in Uttarakhand
The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) decision to remove Trivendra Singh Rawat a year before the polls appears to be a move to quell intraparty resentment against the chief minister, people aware of the developments said on Tuesday.
A considerable number of MLAs were upset that the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) pracharak-turned-CM kept many of his Cabinet colleagues out of the decision-making process, according to several people Hindustan Times spoke to at various levels of the party. While unhappiness had been brewing since 2018 — a year after Rawat took over — things gathered momentum last month.
The immediate trigger is said to be a meeting between a group of Uttarakhand legislators and Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. While Koshyari tweeted a picture with the CM, it was his meeting with some BJP MLAs that started the process of his eventual exit just a year before Uttarakhand polls, party insiders said.
According to a person aware of the details, the BJP MLAs took the opportunity to pour their heart out to Koshyari who was chief minister of Uttarakhand from 2001-2002 and had, incidentally, also been replaced by the party brass just before the 2002 elections.
“The MLAs told the governor how Rawat didn’t meet his Cabinet colleagues, or party MLAs or even the state’s MPs,’’ said the person cited above. That message and its severity, coming so close to the state elections, was conveyed immediately to the party bosses in Delhi. The governor’s office confirmed that he was in Dehradun last month but said that it didn’t have any information about this meeting.
“It’s absolutely untrue to think that the party removed the chief minister for any such reason,’’ said MLA and party spokesperson Munna Chauhan.
“Even the Opposition will not accuse him of corruption. I think the party wants to use his expertise at a larger, national level and so they have moved him.’’
That’s the view the central BJP is also putting out on the record. “We felt that he should be moved to the national level,’’ said Dushyant Kumar Gautam, the state in-charge who was sent to address the rebellion.
However, off the record, BJP leaders tell a different story. The story of how the 60-year-old was seen as honest but also headstrong, refusing to listen to his party men and favouring bureaucrats over the politicians.
“He would not allow any political interference in transfers,’’ said a top official of the state, asking not to be named. “If any minister or MLA recommended someone for a post, he would never listen to them. He was very strict.’’
While the hard taskmaster was a good role model, political workers of the state point out that he refused to share power and kept all the important portfolios for himself. The government website shows that he had 60-odd portfolios assigned to the chief minister’s office and the Cabinet expansion that was expected never took place.
“What’s most important is that while he sided with the bureaucrats, his team of bureaucrats didn’t create the right kind of impression for the government,’’ said the official quoted above.
“The biggest problem was that he never consulted anyone about the decisions he took,’’ said a party worker. “For instance, he announced Gairsain as a new administrative division, other than Kumaon and Garhwal, in the budget a few days ago without speaking to anyone or informing anyone. This is a politically sensitive decision and so everyone got very upset.’’ When the local MLAs confronted him, the chief minister is said to have dismissed their concerns.
Former CM and central observer Raman Singh acknowledged there were several factors behind Rawat’s removal. “It’s a decision that was taken after consultations at various levels of the party,’’ he said. Singh will oversee an MLAs’ meeting on Wednesday after which a new CM will emerge.