Late last evening, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat resigned from his post. His resignation, tendered less than four months after he was sworn in as the chief minister of the hill state, has put the spotlight on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who has to get elected as an MLA within six months.
The INC has alleged that Tirath Rawat is a scapegoat and he has been made to resign to stop Mamata Banerjee from getting elected as an MLA by 5 November and finally step down from her post.
At a press conference today, Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Assembly of Uttarakhand Karan Mahara said that the main aim of the Narendra Modi government was to ensure that Mamata Banerjee did not get elected even at the cost of Tirath Rawat becoming the sacrificial goat.
Mahara, a two-term INC MLA in Uttarakhand, said the removal of Tirath as the chief minister of the state was not as simple as it appeared to be. “Tirath Rawat could have contested the byelection. However, he did not,” he said.
“The real issue is that the target is not Tirath but Mamata Banerjee. The way she has challenged the prime minister (Narendra Modi). We also know that the PM does not tolerate any challenge. We have seen what happened to LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi,” the INC politician said.
Mahara further said as Mamata “poked” the PM, the BJP has taken it as a challenge to stop her from getting elected as an MLA. “The way they (the centre) misuse constitutional bodies, they will sacrifice Tirath to ensure that Mamata does not contest,” he said.
Tirath Singh Rawat was in the national capital for the past three-four days during which he met the top leadership of the BJP including party president JP Nadda. Subsequently, he resigned from his post.
Quoting the Election Commission for not conducting the bypoll, Tirath Singh Rawat tendered his resignation to Uttarakhand governor Baby Rani Maurya. In a brief statement in Hindi, he is reported to have said, “Given the constitutional crisis, I felt it was right for me to resign. Bypolls could not be held because of Covid-19.”
The BJP MLAs are likely to meet on Saturday to elect a new leader, who would be a sitting MLA. Tirath Singh is a sitting Lok Sabha MP. Assembly election in Uttarakhand is expected to be held in March 2022.
The latest development has its ramifications for Trinamool Congress (AITC) supremo Mamata Banerjee as well. Tirath Singh Rawat and Mamata Banerjee face similar circumstances.
Tirath Singh Rawat was supposed to get elected as an MLA by 10 September. Mamata Banerjee, who took oath as the West Bengal chief minister on 5 May, should get elected by 5 November.
Mamata lost to her former confidante and BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari from Nandigram by a narrow margin of 1956 votes.
Tirath has resigned as the Uttarakhand chief minister in anticipation of the Election Commission not conducting the bypoll.
If the Election Commission does not hold bypoll for an MLA seat in West Bengal in the next four months, Mamata Banerjee would be forced to resign as chief minister. She may have to choose her successor who most likely would be a sitting MLA.
Last month, Mamata moved the Calcutta High Court challenging Suvendu Adhikari’s victory. The court has reserved its judgment in the matter.
Tirath Rawat had replaced Trivendra Singh Rawat as Uttarakhand chief minister on 10 March. He was supposed to be elected as an MLA within six months of taking over as the state chief minister.
Article 164(4) of the Constitution of India says, “A Minister who for any period of six consecutive months is not a member of the Legislature of the State shall at the expiration of that period cease to be a Minister.”
Section 151A of Representation of People’s Act 1951 states that a bypoll should be held within six months of the occurrence of a vacancy, provided nothing contained in this section shall apply if “the remainder of the term of a member in relation to a vacancy is less than one year”.
About three months had already elapsed since Tirath Singh Rawat took oath as Uttarakhand chief minister. He had just three more months to get elected as an MLA.