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Early Challenge

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A large number of voters, particularly the youth, who exercised their franchise in favour of the BJP because they were enthused by Pushkar Singh Dhami as Chief Minister, are now disappointed that some other person may take over the reins. This underlines the contradiction in presenting a ‘chief ministerial face’ under the parliamentary system. Traditionally, there is a ‘leader’ of the party and it is taken for granted that the electorate would extend composite support to the two. At the same time, the kind of situation that has developed in Uttarakhand does not technically disqualify Dhami from becoming the CM, at least, for the next six months. The case of Mamata Banerjee is the most recent where a defeated leader has become the CM of West Bengal and got elected to the House in a by-election. The difference, of course, is that there is no TMC without her, while the BJP is not critically dependent on Dhami’s being in office.

On the other hand, whoever else is selected cannot be certain of enjoying the people’s favour. This can only be assured through the other technicality – that of enjoying majority support in the legislative party. It has become the norm in Indian politics that High Commands choose the candidate and the party endorses the choice. This leads to the kind of distortion that the Congress faced in Punjab by foisting Charanjit Singh Channi on the state unit of the party.

The BJP, which prides itself on being a more democratic party, should not fall into this trap. It must, in good faith, poll the legislators and arrive at a consensus. Right now, there seems to be a mood to continue with Dhami. Legislators have offered to resign so that he can stand for election from the vacated seat. Or, there may be someone who can become just as popular.

What should not be done is to foist some obviously poor choice on the people merely out of compulsion or the High Command’s whim. The selected person has an onerous task ahead in the next five years and unless the challenge is fittingly met, the future government might turn out to be an absolute disaster. The new leader should preferably have the energy of youth and a good performance record. The names making the rounds at the present do not inspire much confidence in this regard. Good followers do not necessarily make good leaders. BJP’s new term in office cannot begin with a compromise on the leader.