Even as the BJP gears up for the oath-taking ceremony of Uttarakhand’s Chief Minister-designate Pushkar Singh Dhami on Sunday, at least four senior MLAs – ministers in previous CM Tirath Singh Rawat’s cabinet – are sulking and the party is making all efforts to pacify them amid reports that the selection of Dhami for the top role has fuelled resentment in the state unit.
Sources in the party told News18 that Satpal Maharaj, Madan Kaushik, Subodh Uniyal, Harak Singh Rawat, Bishan Singh Chuphal and Yashpal Arya are among those who have expressed their reservations with Dhami to the party high command.
The sources added that Nainital MP Ajay Bhatt, party in-charge Dushyant Gautam are trying to placate the sulking MLAs ahead of the ceremony at 5pm.
Earlier in the day, BJP leaders insisted that there was no rift over Dhami. BJP’s Bansidhar Bhagat, when asked about the displeasure of the MLAs, said: “I read somewhere that 35 MLAs reached Delhi, please tell me who are these MLAs? These (reports) are mere rumours, our leaders stand firmly with the party.” His view was echoed by BJP MLA Dhan Singh Rawat, who said everyone in Uttarakhand was happy with the decision.
In going for Pushkar Singh Dhami as Tirath Singh Rawat’s replacement in Uttarakhand, the BJP has chosen a young Thakur face from the Kumaon region. The state’s last two chief ministers were from the Garhwal region.
News18 had reported on July 2 that Dhami could be a surprise choice for the post after Rawat had to tender his resignation. A two-time MLA from Khatima, Dhami was not even a minister in either the Trivendra Singh Rawat or the Tirath Singh Rawat government and has superseded many senior leaders to the chair. Party leaders however said Dhami’s selection balances the regional and caste representation inside the party in Uttarakhand as a Brahmin leader from Garhwal; Madan Kaushik is the party chief.
The BJP has placed its bets on 45-year-old Dhami believing that he can appeal to the youth voter as he earlier served as BJP Yuva Morcha chief in the state.
In the 2017 state assembly elections that the BJP swept with 57 out of the 70 seats, the party won 23 out of the 29 seats in Kumaon. This is the region from where most senior Congress leaders in the state come from, including former CM Harish Singh Rawat, against whom BJP is pitching Dhami. Indira Hridayesh, another top Congress leader from Kumaon, had passed away last month.
Dhami is the protégé of former Uttarakhand CM Bhagat Singh Koshyari who is also from Bageshwar in Kumaon and both of them have close links with the RSS. Koshyari is presently serving as the Maharashtra Governor.
The BJP faces a tough task in Uttarakhand now with its third chief minister in the last four years to lead the party into the elections. Dhami said he sees the election as an opportunity for the party to return to power again.