After losing the race twice—once to N D Tewari in 2002 and then Vijay Bahuguna in 2012—third time lucky Harish Rawat became the eighth Uttarakhand CM on Saturday, replacing Bahuguna.
Sixty-five-year-old Rawat’s name was cleared by Congress President Sonia Gandhi after a marathon meeting of the Congress Legislative Party in the State which adopted a one-line resolution authorising her to choose Bahuguna’s successor.
An old Congress hand who had come up in the party’s trade union wing along with Rangarajan Kumaramangalam (who later quit the party to join BJP), Rawat had the qualities of being a popular grassroots leader. But, it took the Congress long years to recognise his hold over the local politics and reward it.
And as many in the Congress believe, had the party not been faced with a tough Lok Sabha election where every seat counts, Rawat would have continued as Union Water Resource Minister away from his karmabhoomi.
Rawat, in fact, got the Water Ministry and a Cabinet rank as compensation for not being made the CM of his State despite the support of MLAs.
Now the Congress high command and the second-in-command will be banking on him to deliver in the parliamentary elections. In 2009, Congress had won four of the five State LS seats. Rawat will have a tough job ahead though, given the discontent Bahuguna’s regime has left behind—mishandling the aftermath of the flash floods that swept part of the State, its people, property and prosperity away.