In recent years, the BJP has shown a marked inclination to topple state governments of other parties and induce defections and change in governments, but earlier this week it secured the resignation of its own chief minister in Uttarakhand, Trivendra Singh Rawat, and had him replaced by Tirath Singh Rawat, a party MP from the state.
With a view to winning elections, the saffron party has changed CMs midstream several times in Uttarakhand. Indeed, what’s surprising is that Trivendra Singh was permitted to run on for four years. He became unpopular with his own MLAs, half of whom are said to have turned against him probably because he did not fill the available cabinet slots. With the help of trusted bureaucrats, he himself sought to run 40-odd departments. Fed up, his MLAs brought a corruption charge against him that was ordered to be investigated by the high court.
In a state with only 70 MLAs, change of loyalty is not hard to engineer — a syndrome Uttarakhand shares with several small states. As such, in the 21 years of the state’s existence, there have been nine CMs. In the last Assembly, the BJP had played the defection game and toppled Congress CM Harish Rawat. It may have feared the poaching of disaffected elements by other parties at election time early next year, and took pre-emptive action by effecting change of guard.
The hope is that the new CM will appease disgruntled elements in preparation for the state poll next year. For the BJP, however, changing CMs midstream has not paid earlier. Like most of his party predecessors, Tirath Rawat is strongly grounded in the RSS and is said to have a strong organisational connect. Indeed, a pan-state mass leader is what the BJP lacks in Uttarakhand. This could just give its opponents a chance.