- Tirath Rawat was asked this afternoon by the ruling party to quit
- He had been in Delhi for past 3 days for meetings with BJP leadership
- BJP MLAs in Uttarakhand will meet tomorrow to pick a new leader
Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat handed in his resignation to the Governor on Friday, barely four months after he took charge and just ahead of polls next year in the state.
"Given the constitutional crisis, I felt it was right for me to resign. Bypolls could not be held because of COVID-19," he said in a brief statement in Hindi.
Tirath Rawat, who had been in Delhi for the past three days for meetings with the BJP leadership, was asked this afternoon by the ruling party to quit. Soon after, he sought an appointment with Governor Baby Rani Maurya. But before meeting with the Governor, he handed in his papers to his party chief JP Nadda.
BJP MLAs in Uttarakhand will meet today to pick a new leader.
Mr Rawat was sworn in as Chief Minister in March, with a little over a year to the Uttarakhand election, amid fierce dissent against then Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat.
But to keep the post, Mr Rawat, who is an MP, would need to win an assembly seat and become a member of the Uttarakhand legislative assembly by September 10.
To hold bypolls at this time would be a tough decision for the Election Commission after the massive controversy over the March-April election in five states, held alongside rising virus cases in the second surge.
"There are many by-elections due. The Covid situation is a major consideration," Election Commission sources had said this morning.
To the BJP's chagrin, the new Chief Minister did no better than his predecessor in defusing the infighting in Uttarakhand.
Sources say Satpal Maharaj and Dhan Singh Rawat have sent feelers to the leadership that they are interested in the top post.
Earlier this year, they had lost the race to Tirath Rawat.
Tirath Rawat's brief stint was packed with controversies. The BJP's Uttarakhand leaders had complained to the Delhi leadership about public anger at some of his pronouncements.
Mr Rawat even embarrassed his party by criticizing his predecessor's policy decisions.
Soon after taking over, Mr Rawat made widely-condemned remarks on women wearing ripped jeans. He also said the US, not Britain, ruled India for 200 years.
His handling of the Kumbh Mela at the peak of the Covid spike and the comment that "no RT-PCR test was required" provoked a huge backlash.
Former chief minister and Congress leader Harish Rawat hit out at the BJP government in the state and said the party has made the position of its leaders ridiculous. In a series of tweets and a video, Mr Rawat also said Tirath Rawat had become a "joke" after no decision was taken on contesting elections.
बजट उन्हीं को पारित करवाना था। सब हबड़-तबड़ में बजट भी पास हुआ और त्रिवेन्द्र सिंह जी की विदाई भी हो गई और उतने भले ही आदमी @TIRATHSRAWAT जी मुख्यमंत्री बने और तीरथ सिंह जी की स्थिति कुछ उनके बयानों ने और जितनी रही-सही कसर थी, वो #भाजपा के शीर्ष द्वारा उनके... 2/3— Harish Rawat (@harishrawatcmuk) July 2, 2021
The BJP, say sources, decided to cut its losses even at the risk of projecting turmoil in the hill state.