DEHRADUN: Pauri Garhwal MP Tirath Singh Rawat was on Wednesday chosen as the leader of Uttarakhand BJP legislature party, paving the way for his becoming the new chief minister of the hill state.
Acting CM Trivendra Singh Rawat proposed the name of Tirath Singh Rawat in the legislature meeting of the party in Dehradun, which lasted for some 30 minutes.
Following this the MLAs, MPs and central observers supported the motion and he was selected to be the CM of the hill state.
"It was all predecided by the central leadership. One can see how acting CM moved a motion and was unanimously supported by everyone including the central observers. And then Trivendra Singh Rawat announced the name in front of the media. This meeting was just a formality, " said a party sources.
Tirath Singh Rawat was the state BJP president from 2013-2015 and is currently the party's national secretary.
He was also an MLA from Chaubattakhal constituency from 2012-17.
His choice by the BJP comes as a surprise as he was not among the favourites.
As per sources, Trivendra can be given some other 'responsibility' out of Uttarakhand.
Thanking the party, the new CM designate said, "I thank my party leaders for this responsibility to such a small worker. My elder brother Trivendra Singh Rawat has done a lot for Uttarakhand and with his blessings I humbly accept this responsibility."
"I will do best for the people of Uttarakhand and bear the responsibility given to me by the party elders," he said.
The move surprised everyone as other contenders such as Dhan Singh Rawat, Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' and Anil Baluni were not even considered for the position.
The CM designate will be meeting the Governor soon. Swearing in ceremony is said to take place at around 4 pm.
"I am very happy to announce this. My respected brother and honorable part worker Shri Tirath Singh Rawat has been anointed with new responsibility by the party," told the acting CM to the media.
Commenting on the appointment of Tirath Singh Rawat as new CM, Suryakant Dhasmana, vice-president of the Uttarakhand unit of Indian National Congress said, "By changing the Chief Minister of the state after four-years, the BJP has betrayed the people of Uttarakhand. Now the new CM and the party will be held accountable by the people of the Uttarakhand for wasting four years."
Trivendra earlier submitted his resignation to Governor Baby Rani Maurya on Tuesday at the Raj Bhawan in Dehradun.
Before meeting Maurya, Rawat was closeted with his close associates at the chief minister's residence including cabinet minister Madan Kaushik and state minister Dhan Singh Rawat, who has emerged as a frontrunner to succeed him.
Speaking to the media over the sudden change of guard, Rawat said that the onus for such a move "lies with Delhi".
"I told you it was a collective decision of the party. You will have to go to Delhi to find that out. All decisions in the BJP are unanimous," he said after submitting his resignation.
"The party gave me a golden opportunity to serve this State for four years. I had never thought that I would get such an opportunity. The party has now decided that the opportunity to serve as CM should be given to someone else now," he added.
Rawat pointed out that on March 18, he would have completed four years in his tenure as CM and listed his schemes started by him, especially for women. It is believed that a BJP legislature party meeting on Wednesday at 10 am will select the new CM.
Governor Maurya also accepted Rawat's resignation as CM and had asked him to continue as acting CM till a new face takes charge.
Ajay Bhatt and Anil Baluni, two senior leaders from the state who are members of Parliament, were being seen as two other strong contenders for the top post.
Sources also said the party might also bring in a deputy chief minister, who will be from the Kumaon region.
The central BJP leadership recently sent two observers, party vice president Raman Singh and general secretary Dushayant Kumar Gautam, to Uttarakhand to get feedback from the party's core group in the state amid reports of discontent against the chief minister.
Earlier, BJP sources had confirmed that the party high command summoned Rawat to the national capital for "further discussions" after a meeting of the state BJP's core committee presided over by central observers was held.
However, Uttarakhand BJP chief Bansidhar Bhagat claimed there was no leadership change likely in the state and Saturday's meeting discussed events to mark the completion of the Rawat-led government's four years in office.
The BJP swept the elections in 2017, winning 57 seats in the 70-member Uttarakhand Assembly. Congress, on the other hand, won just 11 seats.
(With PTI, ANI and ENS inputs)