What Goa, Uttarakhand Decisions Reveal About BJP’s Strategy

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Pushkar Singh Dhami (left) was selected as Chief Minister of Uttarakhand by the BJP.

New Delhi:

His personal defeat in the elections overlooked, Pushkar Singh Dhami was anointed Uttarakhand Chief Minister on Monday while Pramod Sawant got the job in Goa despite colleague Vishwajit Rane’s ambitions, completing BJP’s bet on retaining all four Chief Ministers.

It hinted at a “big picture” decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, political observers say. The decision? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Clearing Mr Dhami for the top job could be seen as an attempt to contain the factional divide in the BJP’s Uttarakhand unit and a vote for stability in the state that saw three Chief Ministers in four months last year.

The youngest Chief Minister of the state, the 46-year-old will now have to win the by-polls within the next six months.

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Pushkar Dhami’s selection was announced by Rajnath Singh on Monday.

“In six months, Dhami left his imprint on Uttarakhand which manifested in the election results,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, one of the party’s “central observers” to the state, told reporters after announcing Mr Dhami’s election as the legislature party leader by the MLAs.

The BJP has reposed faith in Mr Dhami once again as he knows well how to run a government, he said, adding all MLAs unanimously supported him.

The continuity-over-change wager was matched in Goa as well, with the BJP picking Pramod Sawant for a second term, ending an 11-day suspense and dashing the hopes of former state Health Minister Vishwajit Rane who was seen as the frontrunner for the role by many.

With the BJP mustering 20 seats on its own in the 40-member Goa assembly – one short of a full majority, it was the vital support of independent MLAs that closed the choice of Mr Sawant, sources said.

Mr Sawant has been rewarded for overcoming anti-incumbency and steering the party to victory despite resignations by some key figures, including the son of former Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Under his stewardship of the state, the BJP put up its second-best performance ever – winning 20 seats. The BJP had won an outright majority under Mr Parrikar in 2012 when it won 21 seats.

Both Mr Dhami and Mr Sawant got the final green light after a meeting at PM Modi’s residence on Sunday evening, the latest in a series of high-powered huddles since the results were declared on March 10, they added.

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The BJP led by Pramod Sawant staked claim to form the government in Goa on Monday.

The two-term MLA, like Mr Dhami, is considered close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP.

The decisions reflect how the central leadership of the BJP led by PM Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah appeared to have weighed in favour of youth, continuity and the ability to perform under pressure ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

While Manipur had gone to incumbent N Biren Singh on Sunday, 10 days after the election results, it was only Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who had an uncontested path ahead of him.

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All eyes will now be on the other decision in Uttar Pradesh – whether Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, seen as close to PM Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, will get to keep his job as well despite losing his seat this time.

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