A phenomenon that is largely associated with the Congress—faction rivalries forcing a change of guard in the States—has hit the BJP now, taking the sheen off the saffron party’s oft-repeated claim of being a ‘party with a difference.’ The growing dissidence in the party has forced Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat to resign, paving the way for leadership change in the State. The ruling party went through an intense infighting drama, the kind that is generally identified with the Congress. Rawat was summoned to Delhi for talks with the central party leaders and was subsequently asked to put in his papers, just days before his government’s fourth anniversary. The Assembly elections in the State are scheduled next year. A section of the State BJP leaders was miffed with Rawat’s style of leadership and had conveyed its dissatisfaction to the central leadership and the RSS. The leaders were of the view that the party’s electoral prospects under him could be severely dented. Rawat was named the chief ministerial candidate after the BJP stormed to power in 2017, winning 57 of 70 seats in the Assembly. One of the policy decisions of the Rawat government that had infuriated vast sections of the BJP and Sangh Parivar outfits was the move to pass the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Bill, bringing as many as 51 shrines, including Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri, under the direct control of the State government. This was seen as an unwarranted interference with the management of temples.
While Rawat defended his move saying the new law would help in the professional management of shrines, a majority of party leaders raised serious objections while the VHP is gearing up for a protest programme in April. The creation of a new commissionerate in Gairsain, the State’s summer capital, also triggered protests from people in the other two commissionerates— Kumaon and Garhwal. Badrinath and Kedarnath have been made part of the new administrative unit, a move that did not go down well with large sections of the people. Several senior party legislators were unhappy over the inordinate delay in the Cabinet expansion. The central leadership was upset with the slow progress in the developmental projects. The rising dissidence in the Uttarakhand unit holds a larger message for the BJP Chief Ministers nominated by the central leadership. The high command culture, which has been the bane of the Congress for long, is proving to be a stifling factor in the saffron party. In Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis had to face tremendous pressure from the State unit during his term as Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar is still grappling with factionalism in the Haryana unit. Both of them were handpicked by the central leadership.
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