Pushkar Singh Dhami, a two-term MLA from Khatima, is the new Chief Minister of Uttarakhand. He was elected by the State legislature party as its leader on Saturday, following the resignation of Tirath Singh Rawat late on Friday.
Mr. Rawat had quit citing constitutional reasons, of not seeing his way clear to getting elected as a member of the Assembly in Uttarakhand within the stipulated six month period. He continues to be a Lok Sabha MP from the State.
“Given the constitutional crisis, I felt it was right for me to resign. Bypolls could not be held because of COVID-19,” Mr. Rawat had said in a brief statement on Friday.
Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and BJP general secretary D. Purandareshwari were the central observers who supervised the election of the new leader by the legislature party. The two held a meeting at the Bijapur guest house in Dehradun on Saturday afternoon.
Mr. Dhami, 45, has been associated with the BJP since he entered student politics and has twice been head of the Uttarakhand’s Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth wing of the BJP. Working his way up the party hierarchy in the State, he has been State general secretary and party vice-president.
He holds a post graduate degree in management and public administration from Lucknow University, and has been closely associated with former chief minister and current Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
While he hasn’t held any administrative or ministerial position in the State government, the BJP is hoping that a youthful chief minister with a clean slate could help it wipe out some of the mistakes made by it in the State, which will swear-in a third chief minister in seven months.
“Pushkar Dhami is a second term MLA from Khatima, in Udham Singh Nagar and his constituency borders Nepal, and he is from Pithoragarh. He has been at the helm of several agitations by farmers against then Congress led governments and is considered to be very close to former chief minister Bhagat Singh Koshiyari,” said a senior party leader.
Mr. Tomar, after the conclusion of the legislature party meet, said that no other name had been proposed at the meeting and Mr. Dhami’s election had been unanimous. Former chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat was also present at the meet.
“My party has appointed a common worker, son of an ex-serviceman, who was born in Pithoragarh to serve the State. We will work together for people’s welfare. We accept the challenge of serving people with everyone’s help, in a short time span,” said Mr. Dhami in his first remarks after his election as leader of the legislature party.
Uttarakhand is scheduled to go to polls early next year and after the faux pas with regard to the party’s inability to get its previous choice, Tirath Singh Rawat, a membership of the Uttarakhand Assembly, it was clear that the choice would now devolve upon one of the 57 BJP MLAs.
Mr. Dhami’s road is not going to be smooth — he will have to unite the various factions in the State unit, soothe tempers over various acts of his predecessors especially in the running of Hindu shrines, and prepare the party to face polls within months.