Dehradun: Pushkar Singh Dhami will continue as chief minister of Uttarakhand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) declared Monday evening. He and the new government are to be sworn in Wednesday.
Dhami, who was appointed CM in July last year, lost his seat of Khatima in the assembly polls — in keeping with a long-running trend in Uttarakhand, and despite the BJP having won a majority with 47 out of 70 seats overall. It’s expected that a BJP MLA will resign and vacate a seat for Dhami to contest in a bypoll and return to the assembly.
The BJP has made a departure from its usual practice of not appointing a losing candidate as chief minister. For example, Prem Kumar Dhumal was the party’s CM candidate in Himachal Pradesh during the state’s 2017 assembly election. The BJP won the state — but Dhumal lost his seat, and was denied the CM’s post.
Dhami’s name was formally announced by the two central observers, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi, after a meeting with the party’s newly elected MLAs in Dehradun Monday.
The meeting, which began at 5 pm, was nearly wrapped up in half an hour, with the observers asking MLAs to give their nod to the name decided by the party leadership. All 47 BJP MLAs were present at the meeting.
Coming out of the meeting, Rajnath Singh said, “I congratulate Pushakar Singh Dhami, the new CM of Uttarakhand. Dhami had done a great work helping the party win the 2022 state assembly election. We are sure that Uttarakhand will scale new heights of development under the leadership of Pushkar Singh Dhami.”
Days of speculation
Over the past few days, amid speculation, Dhami has had a series of meetings with leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi, BJP national president JP Nadda and national general secretary B.L. Santosh.
A senior BJP leader, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “Dhami was assured (of continuing in his post) by the PM on the same day when the counting of votes was over on 10 March and the CM had lost his poll from Khatima. Later, Home Minister Amit Shah confirmed the PM’s decision when he called Dhami on 15 March.”
Speaking to ThePrint, BJP Uttarakhand spokesperson Shadab Shams said, “Although there were other names in the lineup, I am sure the national leadership knew well that Pushkar Singh Dhami was the face in the front during the election and he fought it bravely, even though lost his own poll.”
“It’s important to note that he didn’t even opt to change his constituency, despite the fact that the central leadership had given him the option,” added Shams.
Oath ceremony Wednesday
Meanwhile, BJP Uttarakhand president Madan Kaushik said that preparations for the new government’s swearing-in are on, and that the ceremony will take place on 23 March (Wednesday). He added that the party leadership’s decision on the CM face is acceptable to all the BJP MLAs.
For the BJP, the choice of CM in Uttarakhand was complicated by Dhami’s loss — unlike the three other incumbent BJP chief ministers who led the party to victory in their states and won their own seats. Yogi Adityanath in Uttar Pradesh, N. Biren Singh in Manipur and Pramod Sawant in Goa are all set to continue in their posts.