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Uttarakhand CM Trivendra Rawat's popularity on decline. Will he complete term

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 7 July 2018, 18:28 IST
(Arya Sharma / Catch News)

The popularity of Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat seems slipping. So much so that people of the hilly state have started doubting whether he can complete his term.

Several BJP leaders reportedly have been unhappy, but are yet to come out in the open as they fear the wrath of the party's National President Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Uttarakhand already has a dubious distinction of having nine chief ministerial changes in its short life of 18 years. Barring Narayan Datt Tewari, the first elected CM, none have been able to complete a five-year term.

The unpopularity of Rawat can be gauged from the two episodes that made headlines in the state last week and were shared widely on the social media. The first was his ordering the detention and suspension of a school teacher at his 'Janta Darbar'.

The teacher had sought a transfer to Dehradun after having served in a remote district for more than two decades. He was punished after a heated exchange with the CM with the latter showing absolute “insensitivity”.

He has come in for massive criticism from across the cross section of society, particularly when it came to light that his own wife has been posted in Dehradun for the last 22 years and so has been the case of wives of other BJP ministers and members of Parliament who have been enjoying postings at places of their convenience.

The second episode was again of a woman hurling abuses and threats at him when he went to the spot of a bus accident in Dhumakot where 48 people had died after an overloaded bus had tumbled in a gorge.

So what makes Rawat unpopular? He was chosen to head the state government after a resounding victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Assembly polls in March 2017 due to his long association with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and his proximity to both Modi and Shah.

The party won 57 of the 70 seats, decimating the Congress.

But there are questions galore on his performance. There is a major resentment among the leaders in his own party, particularly the heavyweights who had left the Congress and had contested successfully on the BJP ticket in the Assembly polls. Sources say that these leaders have been ruing in private how their works are being stalled in the government.

Another reason is his not appointing two ministers against existing vacancy. “The government has been in existence for one and a half years; yet these posts are vacant. The same is the case with ministerial level posts that are lying vacant in different bodies.

“Only four such appointments have been made to these bodies and the latest appointment of Usha Negi to the constitutional position of chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights has been controversial as she is said to be his distant relative,” pointed a political observer based in Dehradun.

The elected leaders who are being denied their pound of flesh are seething in anger pointing that what face would they show to their supporters and with what enthusiasm would the latter work for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls if such a scenario continues for long. Among those who have reportedly complained is the former BJP state unit chief Bishan Singh Chauphal. 

“You have people people who have won up to eight polls in their life not getting any ministerial berth or an equivalent post in any body in the state. Their anger is on expected lines,” said the observer. The agitated leaders do not buy the argument that giving posts to a few would offend the others in the party. They say that their cadres and they themselves worked hard to secure a poll victory and this needs to be rewarded to keep morale high. 

According to a source, the BJP's victory in Gujarat and the recent Tharali bye-election gave some reprieve to Rawat and as of now he continues to enjoy the support of Modi and Shah despite opposition to him. “But much will depend on the performance of the party in the Lok Sabha polls if they decide to go into the battle without any change and he would have completed half his tenure by then,” the source added.

For the last one week speculation have been rife about who can replace Rawat. Among the various names doing the rounds, senior cabinet minister Prakash Pant seems to be a frontrunner.

Several people have also pointed out the disconnect between the CM and the masses. The local media now holds his media adviser, Ramesh Bhatt, for letting the CM down on several occasions. Journalists have complained about how Bhatt has been throwing his weight around.

According to sources, Bhatt has been issuing 'orders' to journalists, especially those with the electronic media, to avoid reporting the duel between the teacher and Rawat unflatteringly. Many reporters alleged that he was more keen for his own publicity than for the CM.

First published: 7 July 2018, 18:28 IST