Pushkar Singh Dhami was sworn in as the 11th chief minister of Uttarakhand, along with an 11-member cabinet, here on Sunday. The oath of office was administered on Dhami and his ministers by Governor Baby Rani Maurya at a simple function held on the lawns of the Raj Bhawan in the presence of a host of MPs and MLAs of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and senior government officials.
No new face has been inducted into Dhami’s cabinet, which remains as it was under his predecessor Tirath Singh Rawat. The only difference is that this time, all the ministers are of cabinet rank.
The ministers sworn in on Sunday are Satpal Maharaj, Harak Singh Rawat, Bansidhar Bhagat, Yashpal Arya, Bishan Singh Chufal, Subodh Uniyal, Arvind Pandey, Ganesh Joshi, Dhan Singh Rawat, Rekha Arya and Yatishwaranand. Rekha Arya, Dhan Singh Rawat and Yatishwaranand, who were ministers of state in Tirath Rawat’s cabinet, have been elevated to cabinet rank.
Earlier in the day, Dhami met Satpal Maharaj at his residence with a bouquet of flowers amid reports that the senior leader and a few other MLAs of the saffron party were sulking since Saturday as they were not happy with his election as the new leader of the BJP legislature party in Uttarakhand.
Dhami later said there was no resentment anywhere. All those said to have been unhappy with the party high-command over its choice of new chief minister were present at the swearing-in ceremony and were sworn in as ministers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Pushkar Singh Dhami who took oath as the eleventh Chief Minister of Uttarakhand on Sunday, a day after being elected as the leader of the state's BJP legislature party. “Best wishes to this team as they work towards the progress and prosperity of Uttarakhand,” the Prime Minister tweeted.
At 45, Dhami takes over as the youngest chief minister of Uttarakhand. A two-time MLA from Khatima in Udham Singh Nagar district, Dhami replaces Tirath Singh Rawat, who resigned on Friday.
Dhami is considered to be close to Maharashtra Governor and former Uttarakhand chief minister Bhagat Singh Koshyari, who is his political mentor.
Dhami takes over the reins of power at a time when Uttarakhand has a few months to go for the Assembly polls, which are due early next year.
-- Dhami is a promising young Thakur leader from the Kumaon region who began his political career with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), in 1990.
-- An attempt by the saffron party to strike the right caste and regional balance ahead of next year’s Assembly polls is evident in its choice of Dhami as the new chief minister.
-- As state BJP chief Madan Kaushik is a Brahmin from the Garhwal region, having a Thakur leader from Kumaon as the chief minister is a clever move aimed at wooing two major sections of the electorate in the two regions of the hill state.
Bid on to persuade sulking seniors
Sources in the saffron party said some leaders, including Satpal Maharaj and Harak Singh Rawat, who were members of former chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat’s cabinet, are sulking since Saturday when Dhami was elected as the state BJP legislature party leader.
Dhami met Satpal Maharaj at his residence in Dalanwala and is understood to have persuaded the senior leader, whose name was among the half-a-dozen names doing the rounds until Saturday as probables for the chief minister’s post.
Satpal Maharaj was the first to leave the legislature party meeting on Saturday, even before Dhami’s election as its leader was formally announced by Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who was present at the meeting as a central observer of the BJP. It was interpreted as his unhappiness with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) choice. However, talking to reporters, Dhami said there was no resentment in the party.
Some other MLAs such as Bishan Singh Chufal, Yashpal Arya and Subodh Uniyal are also said to be unhappy with the decision to appoint Dhami as the chief minister. Their main grouse is with the party’s preference for youth over experience.
Efforts are underway by senior party leaders to assuage the frayed tempers. Nainital MP Ajay Bhatt is said to have met Chufal to persuade him, while BJP in-charge of Uttarakhand Dushyant Kumar Gautam is trying to pacify the sulking leaders at state party chief Madan Kaushik’s residence here.