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Tiwari hangs on to crown

Joshimath, April 22: Barely over a year into the job, Uttaranchal chief minister N.D. Tiwari is feeling the heat. His advancing years, deteriorating health and bitter infighting in the Congress have fuelled speculation that he might be replaced.

Some of his ministers and MLAs recently met party chief Sonia Gandhi to report the difficulties the party was facing due to the government’s inability to take decisions and blamed Tiwari for the state of affairs. Earlier, some of them and state party chief Harish Chandra Singh Rawat wrote to Tiwari, pointing out that his government had failed to fulfil the promises made to people.

Tiwari rushed to Delhi and counter-complained to Sonia that his colleagues were undermining his position and sought her permission to reconstitute his Cabinet. Sonia is reported have decided in favour of maintaining status quo.

At 78, Tiwari is also not in his best health. He is unfit to travel in the hills and, in the 13 months he has been the chief minister of the hill state, he has visited places on the mountains only thrice.

Last week, he fell ill while travelling in a helicopter to nearby Laksar from Dehra Dun and had to be rushed back for treatment. He had been discharged from hospital after a three-week stay only a day before. In January, he had received treatment at New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences for 10 days, and before that in a Dehra Dun hospital.

Tiwari had not contested the Assembly polls and was sent as the chief minister by the Congress high command last year. After six months, a byelection was engineered with the resignation of a Congress legislator so that Tiwari could become a member of the Assembly.

The BJP-led Opposition, too, has mounted an attack on the government, particularly for failing to present the state budget. Despite having held the finance portfolio at the Centre and in Uttar Pradesh, Tiwari was unable to present the Uttaranchal budget this year.

On March 28, a Rs 1,447.16-crore vote on account for three months was passed after the entire Opposition boycotted the Assembly proceedings. It was then said that not only the chief minister, but the entire state government was in bad health, which prevented preparation of the budget.

The fledgling state’s finances are under duress due to the Rs 15,000-crore debt imposed on it by Uttar Pradesh at the time of division of assets and liabilities.

Moreover, none of the issues over which the hill people fought and garnered a separate state have been addressed. No decision has been taken on the state’s capital in three years. The government continues to function from its temporary capital of Dehra Dun because the city has the comforts which ministers and officials do not wish to give up. But in Dehra Dun, the hill people have no voice.

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