A surprise choice: Pushkar Singh Dhami to be new UttarakhCM

Faced with the crucial challenge of the assembly elections in a few months, Pushkar Singh Dhami (45), a two-time MLA from Khatima, on Saturday was chosen for the top job in Uttarakhamidst the dramatic developments that saw the replacement of two chief ministers in less than four months.

Dhami who was pushed into election by his mentor Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari in 2012 to contest successfully from Khatima assembly seat in Udhamsingh Nagar district, is the 11th Chief Minister of the hill state.

Born in Kanalichhina area of Pithoragarh district, Dhami will also be the third chief minister in a short gap of just 116 days in the hill state where change of guard has now become a regular feature. Before Dhami, Tirath Singh Rawat had taken over the reins of the hill state on March 10 this year after the party high commdecided to remove Trivendra Singh Rawat without assigning any valid reasons. Tirath had put in his papers on Friday night after the party found it almost difficult to get him elected as an MLA under the constitutional obligation. Tirath is the only CM in the state who could not become an MLA.

Dhami’s choice again came as a big surprise to party leaders workers alike, just like the party high command’s choice of his predecessor Tirath Singh Rawat a few months ago. Dhami, an MLA from Khatima constituency, was elected the new leader of the state BJP legislature party leader at a meeting held at the party headquarters here this afternoon. The choice was unanimous, said Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, who was the main observer.

Son of an ex-army personnel, Dhami, was an OSD to Koshiyari, when he became chief minister of the new state of Uttarakhin 2001 after the replacement of the first chief minister NityanSwami. He played an active role in the party’s affairs when Koshiyari became the President of the state BJP in 2002. The first time he became MLA was in 2012 when BJP lost the assembly election by just one seat under the leadership of B C Khanduri. Dhami retained his Khatima seat in 2017 when BJP came to power in the hill state with a brute majority of 57 seats in the 70-member House.

Later talking to the media, Dhami said he would pursue the policies of his predecessors take everybody into confidence. “I accept all challenges before me,” said Dhami. When asked about the 2022 assembly elections, he said he would overcome this challenge successfully with the blessings of the state’s people.

Experts said Dhami will not have much time to deal with the poor financial condition of the hill state where the government employees in some corporations, like state roadways, have not been getting salaries regularly. It is also no secret that the state BJP unit is a divided house with most of the top leaders promoting their own factions. The differences within the state BJP unit is going to be the biggest challenge before Dhami in the run up to the polls.

A series of natural disasters in the past one decade has brought wide-spread deaths destruction in the hill state. The government is finding it tough to complete the rehabilitation works related to the 2013 Kedarnath 2021 Rishiganga disasters. How Dhami handles this will be another challenge.

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