New Delhi/ Dehradun: On a day when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) proved the exit polls’ prediction of a hung assembly in Uttarakhand wrong and won with a solid majority, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami was defeated in his Khatima constituency — unable to break the so-called ‘jinx’ that has seen one CM after another fail to defend their seats in the hill state.
Dhami lost to the Congress’s Bhuwan Chand Kapri by over 6,000 votes Thursday. However, the BJP has so far kept mum on whether he will continue as chief minister.
A close aide of Dhami told ThePrint that the central leadership had indicated that he might be retained.
“This decision will be taken by the party high-command. A meeting is scheduled and all issues will be taken up,” said a senior BJP leader.
Barring Bhagat Singh Koshyari, who is currently governor of Maharashtra, no sitting chief minister of Uttarakhand has successfully defended his own seat in the past 20 years.
Koshyari was himself heading an interim government when he fought the newly created state’s first assembly election in 2002. Then, in 2007 the then chief minister, N.D. Tiwari of the Congress, did not contest.
In the next election in 2012, sitting chief minister B.C. Khanduri lost his Kotdwar seat. Similarly, in 2017, CM Harish Rawat was defeated in both seats he contested from.
Chief ministers and CM hopefuls in other states have suffered similar fates. In Rajasthan in 2008, then state Congress chief C.P. Joshi — a leading contender for the CM’s post — lost his seat by a single vote.
In the 2017 Himachal Pradesh assembly election, the BJP won a majority and dislodged the Congress government — but the former’s chief ministerial candidate, ex-CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, lost in the Sujanpur constituency.
Pushkar Singh Dhami
Pushkar Singh Dhami was named chief minister of Uttarakhand last year in what was seen as a surprise move by the BJP leadership, following a period of political turmoil in the state.
He has a background in student politics, having joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in 1990. He went on to become state president of the BJP’s youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), after the creation of Uttarakhand in 2000, and served until 2008.
His first official assignment came in 2002, when he was promoted by then CM Koshyari as his officer on special duty (OSD).
Dhami’s big test came when he was nominated as the BJP candidate from Khatima in the 2012 assembly election. He won the seat by more than 5,000 votes, defeating Congress leader Devendra Chand.
In 2017, Dhami won from Khatima again, this time defeating local Congress heavyweight Bhuwan Kapri — who would reverse the result in their 2022 rematch.
In March 2021, Trivendra Singh Rawat, who had served as chief minister since the BJP came to power in 2017, was asked to step down a year short of a full five-year term, amid complaints about his “uninspiring leadership”.
Trivendra was succeeded by Tirath Singh Rawat, a Lok Sabha MP who had to resign less than four months later citing a “constitutional crisis” — he would have had to win a by-election to the assembly by September to continue serving as CM, and there was uncertainty about whether such a poll would be held in time.
As a result, two-term MLA Dhami was chosen for the chief minister’s post in July 2021.
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)