Dehradun: Former Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Singh Rawat’s announcement that he will not contest the upcoming assembly polls has come as a jolt to the BJP in the state. In a letter to BJP president J.P. Nadda, Rawat stated that he doesn’t want to contest under the “existing political circumstances”, but would work towards the party’s return to power.
The party was all set to field the Rawat, the MLA from the Doiwala constituency, in the 14 February elections.
“There has been a change of leadership in the party and the state has got young leadership in Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami. I should not contest elections under the changed political circumstances. I had informed about my intention not to fight elections in the past as well,” Rawat wrote in his letter to Nadda on 18 January.
“I want to devote my whole time to ensure that the BJP returns to power under the leadership of Pushkar Singh Dhami. I urge you to consider my request not to contest the election,” the letter stated.
According to Rawat, he had recently met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Nadda in New Delhi and made his point about not contesting the polls. His request was granted by Shah and Nadda, following which he wrote the letter to the party president.
Speaking to ThePrint, Trivendra Singh Rawat confirmed that the party leadership was aware of his wishes. “I have already mentioned in the letter the reason for my unwillingness to contest. The party leadership was aware of my wish, as I had spoken with the national president earlier as well. Party chief J.P. Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah accepted my views when I reiterated them at a meeting in Delhi on 17 January,” the former CM said.
Rawat added that he would campaign for the party. “I will work wholeheartedly for the organisation to ensure that the BJP returns to power under the leadership of Pushkar Singh Dhami,” he said.
Rawat, however, denied that the party leadership has promised to accede to any demands from him. “I am not the one who will ask for a position from the party unless the leadership itself finds me good enough. Lots of work is to be done, even when I will not be a legislator,” Rawat added.
BJP sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, informed ThePrint that Rawat was not very keen to contest the elections ever since he was removed as Uttarakhand CM in March 2021. However, he was prepared to contest in case it was thrust upon him, they said.
Uttarakhand BJP leaders confirmed this, saying Rawat was preparing for the elections in Doiwala, which is adjacent to Dehradun and Rishikesh, if the BJP had nominated him against his wishes.
Once close to PM Modi, Amit Shah
Trivendra Singh Rawat was once the most trusted hand of Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the state, when the party registered a resounding victory in the 2017 assembly polls.
His proximity to Shah and Modi helped him become CM after the polls, but he was asked to step down by the BJP leadership in March 2021.
Speaking to ThePrint last year in August, Rawat said was asked to resign by J.P. Nadda a day prior to the nomination of Lok Sabha MP Tirath Singh Rawat as chief minister. Trivendra Rawat had said that he was given no reason for his removal.
Tirath Singh himself was removed as CM after four months and replaced by Pushkar Singh Dhami in July 2021.
Party leaders in Dehradun claim Trivendra Rawat’s exit as CM happened due to the persistent opposition against him by the state Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) unit. This, despite the fact that he was himself an RSS pracharak once.
Besides this, leaders say the BJP leadership in Delhi was also under pressure from the priests of the Char Dham shrines, who bitterly opposed the government’s decision to form the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board in 2019 to control the four shrines of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath, and the temples affiliated to them.
The Uttarakhand government announced the withdrawal of the Char Dham Devasthanam Board Act in November last year.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)