New Delhi: The BJP Lok Sabha MP from Garhwal, Tirath Singh Rawat, was Wednesday appointed as the new chief minister of Uttarakhand and was sworn-in late afternoon.
The decision to appoint Rawat was taken at the BJP legislative party meeting in Dehradun. The developments come a day after Trivendra Singh Rawat relinquished his post as chief minister Tuesday.
Considered close to Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP veteran B.C. Khanduri, the 56-year-old Rawat has served as the Uttarakhand BJP president between 2013 and 2015. He was the BJP national secretary till he was picked as CM.
As the state BJP president, he is credited with the party’s 2014 Lok Sabha win in Uttarakhand.
“The central leadership realised his importance as a key organisational leader due to his management of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when the party won all five seats whereas in 2009, the Congress had bagged all five seats,” said a BJP leader. “He has a clean image and has seldom courted controversies.”
The one-time RSS pracharak
An RSS pracharak, Rawat was elected as a member of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council in 1997 and served until 2002. He also served as the first education minister of Uttarakhand from 2000, when the state was formed, until 2002.
He then had a stint as the BJP’s Uttarakhand general secretary in 2007.
Rawat, who belongs to Seeron village in Pauri district, was elected from the Chaubattakhal assembly seat in 2012. He was, however, denied a ticket in the next assembly polls in 2017 as the party fielded former Congress leader Satpal Maharaj from his constituency.
Maharaj was among the contenders for the CM post but it was Rawat who finally prevailed. Others in the race included BJP MP Anil Baluni, Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ and Uttarakhand minister Dhan Singh Rawat.
According to sources, it is the national leadership that took a call on his name and the state leadership did not have an active role to play.
“He is a grassroots leader who is connected with party workers. He has always maintained a low-profile and believes in doing his work,” a senior BJP leader told ThePrint.
“Due to internal politics in the state, he was denied a ticket in 2017. But the party rewards hard work. The leader who did not get the MLA ticket in the 2017 assembly elections, has now been made the chief minister of the state.”
The Amit Shah aide
Considered close to Home Minister Amit Shah, Tirath Singh Rawat played a crucial role in the Vistarak programme of organisational strengthening that was launched by the party in 2017, during which Shah toured different parts of the country.
After he was denied an assembly ticket in 2017, Shah had appointed Rawat as a national BJP secretary. Sources said that Rawat had then expressed his displeasure over his seat being given to Congress rebel Satpal Maharaj.
“He is considered to be a low-key and quiet leader, who has good organisational skills. He is an organisation man,” a third BJP leader said. “He is also quite popular in Uttarakhand’s Pauri Garhwal region. Despite being actively involved in state politics, his name was never in the CM’s race.”
“Trivendra Singh Rawat was once considered to be the fiercest rival of Tirath Singh but things change in politics. He has to take everyone along now,” said another leader.
Tirath Singh Rawat has been tasked with the responsibility of the state a year ahead of 2022 assembly elections in the hill state. According to the senior BJP leader, the party did not want to take a risk and chose a man with a “clean image” who can take “everyone along”.
The BJP came to power in Uttarakhand by winning 57 seats in the 70-member legislative assembly in 2017. The next election is due in February 2022.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)