New Delhi: Seeking to salvage its sagging image in poll-bound Uttarakhand, BJP on Saturday announced Bhuvan Chand Khanduri would replace Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank as
the Chief Minister of the state.

After two long rounds of talks with Nishank, the BJP top brass convinced him to step down from the post of Chief Minister in the wake of a series of alleged scams against his
government.

Read more: Uttarakhand CM Nishank’s removal would affect Congress election strategy


"Keeping in view the forthcoming elections in Uttarakhand, BJP has decided for a change of leadership in Uttarakhand. B C Khanduri will be the new Chief Minister of the state. The decision will be endorsed by the party MLAs at a meeting in Dehradun tomorrow," party president Nitin Gadkari told reporters after a four-hour meeting.

He was flanked by Nishank and party general secretary Ananth Kumar.

"It was conveyed to Nishank that the party wants a change of leadership in view of the elections. There have been some allegations in the media that there are cases of corruption against him. The party wants to make it clear that there are no charges against him," Gadkari said.

Gadkari insisted that even after Nishank quits his post, he will be given due respect in the organisation and will play an important role in BJP's election campaign in Uttarakhand.

"I am grateful to Nishank that when the decision to go for a change of leadership was conveyed to him, he accepted it with grace in the best interests of the party," Gadkari said, reiterating the only reason for the change was the forthcoming polls.

BJP General Secretary and Chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad will be the Central observer during the meeting of MLAs for finalising Khanduri's name.

Sources said though the decision to remove Khanduri had been taken at the Parliamentary Board meeting of the party last Friday, BJP top brass did not want to ruffle any feather by sacking Nishank unceremoniously.

Nishank will meet the Uttarakhand governor on Sunday afternoon and submit his resignation. Khanduri is likely to take oath on Sunday or on Monday before the start of the "Shraddha" month which is not considered auspicious for making a new beginning.

This will be Khanduri's second term as Chief Minister in this Assembly which was elected in early 2007. He was made the Chief Minister after the polls but had to go in June 2009 when his bete noire Bhagat Singh Koshiyari rebelled against him and claimed to have the support of a majority of party MLAs.

Earlier in the day, the BJP top brass held a meeting with Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and conveyed to him that he will have to step down in the wake of a series of alleged scams facing state the government.

The BJP Parliamentary Board had held a meeting on September 8 to discuss the party's prospects in Uttarakhand and the need for a change in leadership.

Pokhriyal's performance was not upto the mark and the alleged cases of graft were affecting BJP's image in the hill state, the sources said. There were apprehensions that this could cost the party dear in the Assembly elections which are just a few months away.

Other than BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, the meeting was attended by Leaders of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley, senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh who is now given special charge of Uttarakhand elections, Dharmendra Pradhan and Thawar Chand Gehlot.

Khanduri has the image of an honest, no-nonsense leader who commands a lot of respect among the retired defence personnel in Uttarakhand. The state sends a lot of young men to the defence forces and Khanduri, a former army official, is a natural leader for them.

Another reason for bringing in Khanduri is that there were rumours that the sulking leader was planning to form another party. This would have taken away all the retired army personnel who form a major chunk of the BJP vote bank.

His close associate T P S Rawat, who was expelled from the party, is already wooing this vote bank. BJP's plans include bringing back Rawat to the party fold and using Khanduri's services for this purpose.

(Agencies)