Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat has been in Delhi for the past three days over worries that he may lose his four-month-old job because of the uncertainty over an election that he needs to win and a rift in the state BJP unit.
Tirath Rawat was summoned to Delhi on Wednesday by the BJP leadership and yesterday, he was asked to stay put, sources say.
Whether he stays Chief Minister hinges on a decision by the Election Commission.
Mr Rawat took charge in March, with just a year to the Uttarakhand election, as the BJP’s answer to fierce discontent against then Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat. With a state election due next year, the BJP was forced to go for urgent damage control by replacing its top leader.
But to keep the post, Mr Rawat, who is an MP, has to win an assembly seat and become a member of the Uttarakhand legislative assembly by September 10.
The Election Commission, say sources, is being cautious, given the Covid crisis and the massive controversy over the March-April election held despite concerns flagged over rising cases in the second surge of the virus.
Election Commission sources told NDTV that it is consulting with various states on elections. “There are many by-elections due. The Covid situation is a major consideration,” the sources said, adding that a decision would be taken soon.
On Wednesday, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda held a long meeting till late evening with Mr Rawat.
Besides the lack of clarity over polls, the new Chief Minister is apparently facing what his predecessor did – infighting and rivals for his job.
Sources say Satpal Maharaj and Dhan Singh Rawat have once again sent feelers to the leadership that they are interested in replacing Mr Rawat. They had challenged Trivendra Rawat too, but the party had chosen Tirath Rawat.
Since then, the Chief Minister has given his party reasons to regret that decision. He has made a series of controversial statements since March, and the BJP’s Uttarakhand leaders have complained to the Delhi leadership about public anger at some of his pronouncements. He has even embarrassed his own party by criticizing his predecessor’s policy decisions.
Soon after taking over, Mr Rawat made some 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.