Today's Paper

Khanduri to be replaced

B.C. Khanduri  

Neena Vyas

Pokhriyal, Prakash Pant front-runners

NEW DELHI: Uttarakhand Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri’s offer to step down has been accepted by the Bharatiya Janata Party leadership. It has called a meeting of party MLAs here on Wednesday, when a new legislature party leader is expected to be elected.

Mr. Khanduri, a retired Major-General, has been asked to hand over his resignation to the Governor after the party elects a new leader, who will then stake his claim at the Raj Bhavan. The front-runners for the job are Ministers Ramesh Pokhriyal and Prakash Pant.

Mr. Khanduri himself announced on Tuesday that he first offered to resign on May 19 after the Lok Sabha election results to take “moral responsibility” for the party’s defeat in all five seats in the State. He, however, insisted that in the two years he was in office, the party did well in by-elections and municipal polls.

The decision to go for a change of guard was taken at a core committee meeting held at senior leader L.K. Advani’s residence on Monday in the presence of party president Rajnath Singh.

Some party leaders said the former Chief Minister, B.S. Koshiyari, who was leading the dissidence, annoyed the party leadership by unilaterally announcing his resignation from the Rajya Sabha — which he was subsequently made to take back. The compromise arrived at was: No Khanduri, No Koshiyari.

It was no secret in the party that Mr. Khanduri, a four-time MP, was facing dissidence from the camp led by Mr. Koshiyari, who was brought to the Rajya Sabha late last year to solve the problem. In March 2007, Mr. Khanduri was literally imposed by the BJP leadership as Chief Minister when Mr. Koshiyari enjoyed the support of the legislature party.

More recently, the leadership thought of accommodating him if an NDA government is formed. Dissident activity started as soon as the Lok Sabha results were out and it was further fuelled by the party’s rout in the State.

The decision not to yield to Mr. Koshiyari was taken to also send a signal across the party that dissidence would not be tolerated, a senior party leader said.

Mr. Koshiyari has promised to work to strengthen the party before it faces an Assembly election in a couple of years.

At a press conference here on Tuesday, Mr. Khanduri said he was part of the struggle that led to the formation of the separate hill State and he would continue to work for its progress and well-being of its people.