BC Khanduri sworn in as Uttarakhand Chief Minister
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Last Updated: Sunday, September 11, 2011, 21:19
Dehradun: Former army general Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri on Sunday took over as the new Uttarakhand Chief Minister, vowing to fight corruption as BJP handed him the reins of power barely six months ahead of assembly polls in an apparent bid to salvage its sagging image.

Capping a two-day political drama at New Delhi, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank resigned this morning after being given marching orders by the party high command, paving the way for 76-year-old Khanduri to become the sixth chief minister of the hill state.

After some initial resistance, a reluctant Nishank, 54, put in his papers, the second chief minister to be removed by the BJP high command in a little over a month after BS Yeddyurappa in Karnataka.

Later, Major Gen (Retd) Khanduri, an old war-horse, was elected as the new leader by BJP legislature party unanimously at a meeting where Ravishankar Prasad and state in-charge Thavar Chandra Gehlot acted as central observers.

Governor Margaret Alva administered the oath of office and secrecy to Khanduri, who returned to the top post two years after he was removed by the party following its humiliating defeat in all the five Lok Sabha seats in the 2009 general elections.

All the eleven ministers, who were part of Nishank cabinet, have been retained by Khanduri.

In his first policy decision, Khanduri said he and all his cabinet colleagues along with IAS and IPS officers will declare their assets within a month.

"Today we held an informal Cabinet meeting where I gave directions for declaration of property by IAS, IPS and all ministers within one month," Khanduri told reporters here, adding that he too will make his assets public within the timeframe.

"By October 15, all would have to file their property details," he said.

Khanduri also said his government would bring a strong Lokayukta Bill within two months incorporating suggestions of Jan Lokpal Bill of Anna Hazare, a legislation to seize benami property and public service right bill.

Political observers described the move as a "face-saving formula" by the party after the Nishank government came under cloud over allegations of corruption.

Stressing that the main focus of his government would be "good governance", Khanduri said, "We want to do some good work in order to win the hearts of the people as well as the next assembly elections."

Attacking the previous Congress government, he said that efforts would be made to unearth the truth in all "the 56 alleged scandals" during its tenure.

The cabinet ministers who took oath at the function at Rangers Ground here were Matbar Singh Kandari, Banshidhar Bhagat, Prakash Pant, Diwakar Bhatt, Madan Kaushik, Trivendra Singh Rawat, Rajendra Singh Bhandari, Govind Singh Bist, Vijaya Barthwal, Khajan Das and Balwant Singh Bhoryal.

Nishank, who went to Raj Bhavan to hand over his resignation to the Governor Alva, later told reporters, "I'm a party worker. I will do whatever the party wants me to do."

The high drama began unfolding on Friday with rumours that Nishank was on his way out. After two rounds of talks with Nishank yesterday, the BJP top brass convinced him to step down from the post of Chief Minister.

BJP sources said the decision to remove Nishank was taken by the parliamentary board after assessing the political situation in Uttarakhand.

They claimed that senior BJP leader LK Advani was unhappy with the functioning of Nishank due to a string of corruption scandals.

However, party president Nitin Gadkari yesterday denied that Nishank was facing any graft charges and praised him for accepting the party's decision. He had also underlined that the only reason for the change was the forthcoming polls.

Nishank government had come under cloud over alleged irregularities in a Rishikesh housing project, hydro-power projects and in conduct of Mahakumbh.

To a question regarding charges of corruption against the Nishank government, Khanduri said he did not have to say anything on the issue after party President Nitin Gadkari has already clarified the factual position yesterday at New Delhi before the media.


First Published: Sunday, September 11, 2011, 09:33

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