Between 10 March and 4 July 2021, not much water has flown down the Ganges. Has it? But much has changed indeed in the state the holy river rises in – at least the state chief minister has, if not anything else to count. Ironically, Tirath Singh Rawat was sworn in with a hope that he would bring his party back to power, but the hope dashed before he could complete even his four months in power. Why? Well, the official reason, of course, is the constitutional crisis emerging from difficulties in his election via a bypoll within six months of becoming the CM because the term of the Uttarakhand assembly is ending in less than a year now and the Election Commission (EC) is not mandated to hold the by-elections within six months of its dissolution. So, Tirath Singh Rawat had to go paving the way for BJP MLA Pushkar Singh Dhami to take over.
But, unofficially, there are a number of factors that may have led to his ouster. Because in the last less than four months, TS Rawat had been more in headlines for generating controversies than for his administrative skills. These controversies not only made the party central leadership uncomfortable but also could have ruined the BJP’s chances of return in the poll-bound state. In the end, Rawat’s short stint has become a classic case for what a chief minister must not do to avoid backlash and maintain his hold on power.
Lesson #1. CM must not assume he is a film scriptwriter
This is the first mistake that Tirath Singh Rawat made after he became the chief minister of Uttarakhand. He publicly commented about the attire of a woman travelling with him on a flight in an attempt at preaching youths against strange fashion trends. What created uproar across the country was the way he described the woman and her ripped jeans. He narrated the incident as if he were writing a script for some C-grade movies/series. He thought he was dramatising it to suitably target a particular section of people but he ended up outraging everyone who took a listen.
Lesson #2. CM must not dabble in history if unaware of it
Who doesn’t like it to be appreciated, even hyperbolically? But facts are facts. You twist the fact singing paeans to the prime minister and the prime minister is most likely to get upset. Tirath Singh Rawat tried to praise PM Modi for handling the COVID crisis in India and in that endeavour he uttered that ‘it was America that had ruled India’. Rawat said, “As opposed to other countries, India is doing better in terms of handling the COVID-19 crisis. Even America, which enslaved us for 200 years and ruled the world, is struggling in current times.”
Lesson #3. CM must not ignore science even in religious matters
He did not just mishandle the Kumbh Kela in Haridwar, he made it worse with his obstinacy and finally, the Prime Minister himself had to intervene. The second wave of COVID-19 had begun to sweep the country when thousands of devotees started pouring in at the ghats of the Ganges in Haridwar. The need of the hour was to keep the holy dip symbolic ensuring the protocol of the pandemic but Tirath Singh Rawat believed that coronavirus will not spread as the Kumbh was being held in open space. He further reportedly said, “Maa Ganga’s blessings are there in the flow. So, there should be no corona.”
At last, with swelling COVID-19 cases and rising deaths due to the pandemic, the Uttarakhand High Court panned the state government for its handling of the crisis and allowing the Kumbh like gatherings.
Lesson #4. CM must not be stubborn and repeat same mistake
As if he did not learn anything from the Kumbh Mela fiasco, ex-CM Tirath Singh Rawat seemed adamant about allowing the Char Dham Yatra. Despite the fact that the Uttarakhand High Court argued that religious faith cannot be allowed to override public safety and directed the state govt against it, the Uttarakhand govt approached the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the HC order.
Clearly, a spate of controversies around Tirath Singh Rawat alarmed the BJP leadership forcing them to rethink over his replacement in the state in the run-up to the elections. Because, an unpopular leader is bound to fail, while the party needed someone at the helm who could sail it through the elections with a rebounding victory.