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Uttarakhand Crisis: Tirath Singh Rawat Resigns in Surprise Late-night Move

By: News Desk


Last Updated: July 02, 2021, 23:42 IST

New Delhi

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat.

Tirath Singh Rawat submitted his resignation to the Governor at 11 pm on Friday.

Barely four months after taking charge as the head of the state, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat submitted his resignation on Friday. In a surprise move, he reached the Governor House around 11 pm and submitted his resignation papers. Earlier, he had told the media during a press conference at 9:30 pm that he was slated to meet Governor Baby Rani Maurya at 11 am on Saturday.

Rawat’s sudden but expected move pushed the state into a major political crisis deeper than the one it witnessed just months ago.

Rawat needs to be elected as an MLA in the next two months to continue in the post, which he got after the BJP leadership removed Trivendra Singh Rawat from the helm. But observers say with the term of the assembly in any case coming to an end in less than a year, the EC may not order a bypoll for the vacant seats in Uttarakhand.

Sources say, this time around the BJP wants to correct its ‘mistake’ and is most likely to choose a sitting MLA. The names of Satpal Maharaj, Banshidar Bhagat, Harak Singh Rawat and Dhan Singh Rawat are doing the rounds as probable replacements for Rawat.

The BJP is planning to elect a new legislature head tomorrow at a party meeting scheduled to be held at 3 pm, sources said added.

Earlier in the day, Rawat met BJP president J P Nadda amid increasing buzz that the party may again go in for a change in the leadership in the state as the prospect of the Election Commission holding an assembly bypoll there looks uncertain. Without commenting on the speculation about his fate, Rawat told reporters the party will take a call about its political strategy in the state, and noted that holding or not holding the bypoll is the EC’s prerogative.

If Rawat quits paving the way for another person, an MLA most probably, then he would have held the post for less than four months after the party brought him to replace Trivendra Singh Rawat. Uttarakhand remained abuzz with speculation that the BJP could pick a new leader as CM Tirath Singh Rawat needs to be elected as an MLA by September 10 to continue in the post. What has made matters more complicated for him is that the EC had recently deferred holding some Lok Sabha and assembly bypolls due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The poll panel had said it would not be appropriate to hold the electoral exercise till the pandemic situation improves significantly.

Rawat, currently a Lok Sabha member, had arrived in Delhi on Wednesday and had met Nadda on that night as well. He had also met Home Minister Amit Shah, sources said, adding that he had to postpone his departure to the state as the party leadership asked him to stay put. The BJP has not made any comments regarding these developments. Observers added that with the term of the assembly in any case coming to an end in less than a year, the EC is under no compulsion to order a bypoll for the vacant seats in Uttarakhand.

Scathing criticism by the courts of the string of elections held during the coronavirus pandemic may also contribute to the EC decision on Uttarakhand bypolls, it is felt. Section 151A of the Representation of People Act, 1951 mandates the Election Commission to fill vacancies in Parliament and the state legislatures through bypolls within six months from the date of their occurrence, provided that the remainder of the term of the new member is one year or more.

The term of Uttarakhand Assembly is scheduled to come to an end in March, only about nine months away. Going by some Uttarakhand BJP leaders’ interpretation, however, the law neither prevents nor makes it mandatory for the EC to hold bye-elections in such circumstances.

“It is within the scope and ambit of the Election Commission to take a call on whether or not to hold a bypoll in the state. Everything depends on the Election Commission of India," said Munna Singh Chauhan, BJP MLA from Vikasnagar and former spokesperson of the party’s state unit. Rawat has little to worry if a bypoll is held but doubts are being cast on its constitutional feasibility as the current assembly completes its tenure in less than a year.

There are two vacant assembly seats in Uttarakhand — Gangotri and Haldwani. Gangotri fell vacant after the death of BJP MLA Gopal Singh Rawat and Haldwani after the death of Leader of Opposition Indira Hridayesh. Even if there are no constitutional hurdles, the Election Commission may not find it easy to go for a bypoll in Uttarakhand, observers here said, recalling court observations against the EC for “risking" people’s lives through elections amid a pandemic.

Political observers said the Centre may also not press for a bypoll in Uttarakhand as bye-elections are also due in other parts of the country and the hill state cannot be made an exception. If a bypoll is not held then the only option left for the BJP’s central leadership is to replace Rawat with someone who is already an MLA, they said.

(With PTI inputs)

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first published:July 02, 2021, 18:47 IST
last updated:July 02, 2021, 23:42 IST
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