Uttarakhand govt crisis: From Dhan Singh Rawat to Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, look at frontrunners for CM post

Ajay Bhatt and Anil Baluni, two senior leaders from the state who are members of Parliament, are being seen as two other strong candidates for the top post. Here are short profiles of all chief ministerial probables.

FP Staff March 09, 2021 20:43:57 IST
Uttarakhand govt crisis: From Dhan Singh Rawat to Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, look at frontrunners for CM post

File photo of Ramesh Pokhriyal. PTI

With Uttarakhand chief minister Triverndra Singh Rawat's resignation and Assembly elections in state not due for another year, speculations on who would be helm the Bharatiya Janata Party government have started growing. State minister Dhan Singh Rawat has emerged as a frontrunner amid speculations that the new chief ministerial face will also be from the Rajput community as the state BJP chief is a Brahmin.

Ajay Bhatt and Anil Baluni, two senior leaders from the state who are also Members of Parliament, are being seen as two other strong candidates for the top post. Here are short profiles of all chief ministerial probables.

 Dhan Singh Rawat

Dhan Singh Rawat is among the front-runners for the chief minister's post as he belongs to the influential Thakur community. He is a Minister of State for Higher Studies in Uttarakhand in the Trivendra Singh Rawat cabinet. He was elected as an MLA from Srinagar constituency in Pauri district in 2017 for the first time. He courted controversy in Januarry last year when he suggested a ban on the use of mobile phones in colleges, claiming that the device affected the concentration of students. He had even gone on to suggest that the government will install jammers in the colleges if need be. However, the move was vehemently opposed by student unions and the Opposition.

He had also batted for the implementation of a compulsory dress code in all state colleges to ensure 'uniformity' and had advocated celebration of birth anniversary of famous personalities in educational institutes, instead of declaring them as holidays.

Dhan Singh's name is doing rounds for the top post as he comes from the same caste as the former chief minister, who was appointed in 2017 in keeping with the complex caste math that dictates the state's politics. Thakurs and Brahmins are the two dominant communities in the state, with the state party unit's helm being in the hands of Bansidhar Bhagat, a Brahmin.

After Thakurs, who make up for about 50 percent of the total vote bank, Brahmins are the second most influential group with roughly 30 percent of the voting population belonging to the caste.

Ajay Bhatt

Ajay Bhatt, is a Lok Sabha MP from the Nainital–Udhamsingh Nagar seat in Uttarakhand. He defeated former Uttarakhand chief minister and senior Congress leader Harish Rawat by a huge margin of 3,39,096 votes in the 2019 General Elections at the seat which was considered an unshakable Congress bastion.

His name is doing rounds because before becoming an MP, Bhatt was active in state politics and has also held the post of leader of opposition in the state legislative assembly during the Congress rule. He held several portfolios in the Government of Uttarakhand as a minister during previous stints of the BJP. He is regarded as one of the senior-most BJP leaders of Uttarakhand and has also served as MLA from Ranikhet Legislative Assembly. As state unit president, Bhatt was also credited with leading his party to power in Uttarakhand in the 2017 state legislative Assembly polls, even though he lost his own seat to Congress' Karan Mahra.

Bhatt has been associated with the BJP since his student days. He has studied law and lists his profession as an advocate before becoming an elected representative.

Anil Baluni

A journalist-turned-politician, Anil Baluni is a Rajya Sabha MP from Uttarakhand. He is also the Bharatiya Janata party's national spokesperson. According to a report in Zee NewsBaluni is considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. He became associated with the duo when Uttar Pradesh BJP's senior leader Sundar Singh Bhandari was appointed the Gujarat governor. Bhandari was close to Baluni and appointed him as an officer on special duty in Gujarat during his stint.

In state politics, Baluni has unsuccessfully attempted to fight polls from the Kotdwar seat twice. In the state's maiden election in 2002, Baluni's nomination was rejected by the state election commission, a move which he challenged in the Supreme Court. He then fought the 2005 bypolls from the seat but was defeated by Congress' Surendra Singh Negi.

Baluni now closely coordinates the media engagements of the prime minister and home minister.

Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank

Some reports have speculated that the Union Minister of Education Ramesh Pokhriyal who hails from Uttarakhand's Dehradun district can also be a probable chief ministerial candidate. He represents Haridwar Constituency of Uttarakhand in the Lok Sabha.

Pokhriyal holds an M.A., PhD (Hons.), D.Litt (Hons.) from Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University, Uttarakhand.

He has extensive administrative experience both at the state and central level.

Pokhriyal has been an MLA in undivided Uttar Pradesh and later in Uttarakhand between 1991 and 2012 for five consecutive terms.

He also served as Uttarakhand chief minister from 2009 to 2011. He shifted to national politics in 2014 and resigned from Doiwala constituency as an MLA to contest the general election from Haridwar constituency. He was made the Union minister for Education in the Modi cabinet in 2019.

The BJP, however, has made no official comment on Rawat's replacement. The Uttarakhand BJP Legislature Party will meet at the state party headquarters at 10 am Wednesday to choose the new chief minister.

Sources told PTI that the party may also bring in a deputy chief minister, who will be from the Kumaon region to grant better representation in the cabinet to the region ahead of next year's elections. Pushkar Singh Dhami is likely to be the deputy chief minister, they added.

The central BJP leadership recently sent two observers, party vice president Raman Singh and general secretary Dushyant Kumar Gautam, to Uttarakhand to get feedback from the party's core group in the state amid reports of discontent against the chief minister.

With inputs from PTI

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