Dehradun: Former Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has told ThePrint in an interview that he has always been applauded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the good work done by his government, and he had no idea why he was removed from his post in March this year.
Rawat added that although his removal was untimely, it was the party’s decision and he accepted it.
The BJP leader, who is considered to be close to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, became the chief minister of Uttarakhand after the BJP’s landslide victory in the state elections in 2017, when it won 57 seats in the 70-member assembly.
But four years later, Rawat was asked by the party to step down, allegedly because of his government’s “non-performance”. It has been since been rumoured that the BJP wanted to go into the upcoming 2022 assembly elections in Uttarakhand with a “fresh face”.
Rawat’s successor, Lok Sabha MP Tirath Singh Rawat, too, couldn’t cement his position in the government, and was replaced by Pushkar Singh Dhami in July, within three months of taking oath.
Although Rawat refused to comment on Tirath Singh’s removal — “I don’t know the reason why he was asked to go,” he said — he insisted that his government has lived up to the expectations of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP leadership.
The former chief minister also expressed his opposition to Dhami’s decision last month to review the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board, set up by Rawat’s government in December 2019 and constituted on 15 January 2020.
He said that those protesting against it were a small group of priests and purohits who have their vested interests, while the shrines board caters to the needs of the entire Hindu community across the world.
‘Always appreciated by PM’
Trivendra Singh Rawat called his removal as chief minister “untimely” and said “it cannot be termed a right decision”.
“But at times prevailing circumstances result in such decisions and the leadership has to take it in the interest of the organisation. It came out of the blue for me, but the party must have taken the decision for further organisational reforms and with some strong end in the target,” he added.
“Although I was clueless as to the party’s sudden decision on my exit, but had an inkling about something happening in Delhi. Nevertheless, when it came to me, I accepted the decision thinking it’s being done in the interest of the party and usher in more organisational reforms.”
Rawat claimed the PM had always praised his governance, particularly the reconstruction of the Kedarnath shrine area — Kedarpuri — under extremely tiring and bone-chilling weather conditions. Work had continued even in winter when the climatic conditions in the area are very harsh.
The reconstruction of Kedarpuri, after the 2013 floods that caused extreme devastation in Uttarakhand, has been one of the most cherished projects of PM Modi. He had himself monitored the project since coming to power in 2014 and consistently sought updates from the Uttarakhand government on Kedarnath reconstruction works that has been underway for more than seven years now.
“My government was always appreciated by the prime minister for the way we took up the challenges of Kedarnath reconstruction throughout the year and implementation of public schemes in the state,” said Rawat when asked if Modi was unhappy with the government’s performance during his tenure.
“The prime minister is well aware of the difficulties involved in working throughout the year at more than 11,000 feet high Himalayas where the shrine is located. He applauded my government even in my last meeting with him a few days ago and discussed how the BJP may return to power (in Uttarakhand) in 2022,” Rawat added.
Against Dhami’s decision to review Devasthanam board
Rawat also spoke about the protest against the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board and the current CM’s talk of reviewing it.
“Devasthanam Management Board was duly enacted after in-depth study of Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams Trust, Somnath Temple Trust, and literatures of similar organisations from other parts of India. The chief minister (Dhami) was part of the assembly that enacted it,” he said.
“There is no point in reviewing and scrapping the entire board as the majority of the people in the state have supported it. Only a small group of purohits are opposing it who have their vested interests. If the government finds any provisions unsuitable it can amend it, but scrapping cannot happen,” he added.
“The Board was created to meet the needs and demands of more than 120 crore Hindus across the world, not that of Uttarakhand alone.”
Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board was formed mainly to administer and manage the properties of nearly 53 temples in the state. This also included the famous the char dham shrines of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath.
Rawat government’s move did not find favour with the pundits and purohits of char dham shrines, who are now demanding that the board be scrapped. They have termed the board an infringement by the government in the religious functioning of the temples. The Dhami government said last month that the board will be reviewed by a committee headed by the chief secretary of the state.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)