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Uttarakhand CM rushes to Delhi amid legal bind

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat performs yoga on International Day of Yoga in Harrawala on June 21, 2021. Photo: Twitter/@TIRATHSRAWAT via PTI
Nistula Hebbar Damini Nath New Delhi 30 June 2021 22:57 IST
Updated: 01 July 2021 09:36 IST

Tirath Singh Rawat has to get elected to Assembly before September.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat rushed to Delhi on June 30, cancelling pre-scheduled programmes as he continues to face a legal bind over his election to the State Assembly before September.

According to sources in the BJP, Mr. Tirath Singh Rawat and senior leaders have been mulling over his options ever since the second wave of the pandemic took such a dire turn. Mr. Tirath Singh Rawat, a Lok Sabha MP, became Uttarakhand Chief Minister in early March replacing Trivendra Singh Rawat, but he is yet to become a member of the Assembly, a requirement he is supposed to fulfil within six months of taking oath.

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Senior BJP leaders, especially those who have some legal expertise, are mulling over his options now, while the ball is firmly in the Election Commission’s court. “Since the second wave of the pandemic, there has been no move to hold any bypoll, looking at what happened after the Assembly elections in four States and one Union Territory and especially in Uttar Pradesh during the panchayat polls held at the same time. This has left Tirath Singh Rawat marooned in a legal limbo,” said a source. Congress leaders in the State have already raised the issue publicly.

While Mr. Tirath Singh Rawat spent the first half of his day at Uttarakhand Sadan awaiting a call from BJP president J.P. Nadda for a meeting, he later dropped in on his official quarters as an MP at the multi-storey Kaveri apartments. At the time of writing, he was yet to meet Mr. Nadda.

COVID situation

Sources in the Election Commission told The Hindu that the EC was yet to decide on bypolls and that the call largely depended on the COVID-19 situation. “There is still time for Mr. Tirath Singh Rawat to be elected to retain his post as Chief Minister, as he took oath on March 10, giving him six months or till September 10 to become a member of the Uttarakhand Assembly,” said the source.

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Another official who spoke to The Hindu said Section 151 (A) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, which stated that byelection must be held within six months of a vacancy occurring was applicable in this case. The clause, however, provided two exceptions for not holding bypoll — if the remainder of the term in relation to the vacancy is less than a year or if the EC, in consultation with the Centre, certifies that “it is difficult to hold the byelection within the said period.” Significantly, the term of the current Uttarakhand Assembly ends on March 23, 2022.

Mr. Tirath Singh Rawat , before he rushed to New Delhi, was supposed to flag off the Mahalakshmi programme of his government for women’s empowerment as well as to hold a press conference in the evening.