Uttarakhand ready for chief minister's swearing-in, but no candidate announced yet
Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are all set to attend the swearing-in ceremony in Uttarakhand on Saturday, and all preparations are in place. There is only one problem: There is no chief minister to be sworn in.
Exactly a week after sweeping Assembly elections in Uttarakhand, the BJP will form a government in the hill state, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah are all set to attend the swearing-in ceremony on Saturday. Accordingly, the state administration has swung into action, and all preparations are in place at Dehradun's Parade Ground, the event venue.
There is only one problem: There is no chief minister to be sworn in.
Sources at the state government have confirmed PM Modi's presence at the event, however. "Narendra Modi is likely to attend the oath taking ceremony. So the administration is making proper arrangement at the Parade Ground," a source from the state government said.
There are several names doing the rounds regarding who will become chief minister of Uttarakhand. Among those considered to be frontrunners are former minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, and former speaker of state Assembly Prakash Pant. Former Union minister Satpal Maharaj, who was elected from the Chaubattakhal constituency, is also said to be in the race for the top post. BJP sources also do not rule out the possibility of a dark horse clinching the race.
In Uttarakhand, especially, social equations matter a lot, and there is a considerable population of Thakurs and Brahmins, apart from scheduled castes. While Prakash Pant is a Brahmin face, Trivendra Singh Rawat is a Thakur. "The party will keep the social factor in mind while selecting the new chief minister," said a source from the BJP.
In 2012, both Trivendra Rawat and Prakash Pant had lost the Assembly polls, and the latter had even faced defeat in the Sitarganj by-elections, when he faced then chief minister Vijay Bahuguna. Trivendra Rawat too lost by-election in 2014 from the Doiwala seat, and was given responsibility of being the party's in-charge for Jharkhand state.
On the other hand, Prakash Pant, an MLA from Pithoragarh, was the first speaker of Uttarakhand Assembly, part of the interim government in 2002. He has also been a Cabinet minister who has handled portfolios like tourism and culture, pilgrimage endowment, parliamentary affairs and reorganisation.
All claimants to the chief minister's throne and party leaders are now waiting for the arrival of central observers Narendra Singh Tomar and Saroj Pandey for a meeting with newly elected MLAs. They will also collect feedback about possible faces in the new Cabinet and their acceptability in the state.
BJP has got a massive mandate in Uttarakhand, winning 58 out of 70 seats in the Assembly, but is likely to face fresh challenges, like ensuring delivery of new schemes promised by the party during the election campaign. The party is reportedly trying to look for new faces who can meet the new challenges.
While the party's local leaders are busy speculating the new chief minister of Uttarakhand, the Congress party too is fighting its own battles. Former chief minister Harish Rawat and party's state president Kishore Upadhyay both lost their constituencies — Rawat contested from two seats and lost them both — meaning it's down to three senior leaders in the state Assembly who can become leader of Opposition. Former finance minister Indira Hridyesh, former home minister Pritam Singh, and former Assembly speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal are the candidates the Congress will need to pick from.
Rawat, who holds the forest, environment, labour and employment portfolios in the Uttarakhand cabinet, had left Congress to join BJP in 2016
It is not unlikely that a few more Congress defectors find place in the party's second list of 11 candidates, to be announced soon
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