DAINIK NATION BUREAU
Despite five days passed since the result was declared, the Bharatiya Janata Party is yet to zero in on who would be the chief minister with at least three names – Prakash Pant, Trivendra Singh Rawat and Satpal Maharaj-doing the rounds as the front –runners in the race. However, it is clear that the party high command would take the final call. Two senior leaders from Delhi coming to Dehradun on Thursday to convene the BJP legislature party meeting, a few hours are still left for the speculation to swirl.
Sources say that two BJP leaders- Naredra singh Tomar and Santosh Pandey- have been appointed as observers to convene the meeting of the newly elected BJP MLAs. They are expected to read the pulse of the members regarding the choice for the new CM. However, the party top guns based in Delhi taking the final call on the selection, the party MLAs here are not in a position to ventilate preference or dissent in case the selection is not in tune with their preference.
As things stand now, Choubattakhal MLA Satpal Maharaj, who switched to the saffron party from Congress when the state was in the thick of the electioneering for the general election-2014, is running ahead of other contenders for the coveted post of the CM. He has administrative experiences in the Centre as he was a minister of state for railways. In terms of stature too, he is supposed to be head and shoulders over others. Many old horses vying for the CM chair are edgy as Maharaj being bestowed with the post might prove a go-getter, relegating others to the background.
Waiting in the wings are the state party stalwarts like Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Maj Gen Bhuwan Chandra Khaduri, Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Vijay Bahuguna. None of them is supposed to be favourably inclined to Maharaj being foisted on the state as the new CM.
The party’s national leadership is, however, breathing easy with little or no possibility of any leader or any faction challenging its decision. Two factors would work in its favour-the party conducting the campaign sans a CM face and the unprecedented mandate being ascribed solely to the magic unleashed by the PM during his whirlwind campaigning in the state.
With Maharaj figuring prominently in the list of the CM probable, the prospects of the Doiwala MLA Trivendra Singh Rawat for ascending to the top post can hardly be brushed aside. He served the state as the agriculture minister when the BJP ruled the state from 2007 to 2012. During his tenure as the state agriculture minister, the cabinet took the decision to purchase cow urine, something that courted controversy. His close proximity to the party high command, especially the person who matters the most- the national president Amit Shah-might clinch things for him, say those close to Rawat, adding that the important position he is holding in the state unit of the party in Jharkhand would prove an added advantage for him. Confident of his position vis-à-vis the unfolding scenario, he stayed put in Dehradun in the aftermath of the declaration of the result when a host of other hopefuls chose to camp in Delhi. There is unconfirmed news of the PM Narendra Modi having telephoned Rawat. No matter whether it is true or not, there is little doubt that his stock vis-à-vis the national leadership is in the ascendency.
The third contender, deemed to be a dark horse, is the Pithoragarh MLA Prakash Pant. Aside from serving the Vidhan Sabha as its secretary during the period the interim government ran the state after its formation, he served as a minister from 2007 to 2012 when there was the BJP government. Besides, he is in the good book of three state stalwarts, all former CMs- Gen Khanduri, Koshyari and Bahuguna.
Talking to The Pioneer on Wednesday, Pant said that it was the prerogative of the party high command to take the final call on the matter. “I being a disciplined worker of the party would abide by whatever decision they take according to their discretion. However, one thing is clear. Whosoever takes the rein of the state as the CM must effectively deliver on the ground with the people having put the party to an acid test of performance with such a sweeping mandate,” he said.
Observers say that the challenge before the new government is a formidable one with the state being burdened with a staggering debt of Rs 44000 crore. “Besides, tourism must be adequately boosted as it is the fulcrum of the state’s economy. A challenge is also staring the new government and the CM at its helm in the face in the form of the much-hyped all- weather char dham road project. Its foundation stone having already been laid, the onus of executing it the way the Centre desires, keeping in view the deadline fixed and the expectations it has spawned in terms of generations of jobs falls on the new government. Surely, the road ahead is not strewn with flowers but riddled with enormous challenges which the new dispensation must rise to taking its stride all kinds of hiccups,” says an observer.