6 Chief Ministers in 6 Months: Change of Guard Flavour of the Season or New Normal in Indian Politics?

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Six chief ministers from five states in India have been replaced since March, a trend that seems to be catching popularity among political parties. Interestingly, five of the leaders were replaced before completing their terms.

Since March this year, Uttarakhand, Assam, Karnataka, Gujarat and now Punjab have seen the change in command and only the Assam chief minister was replaced upon completion of the term.

Changing the chief minister is a very new phenomenon in Indian politics, where CMs have served for as long as five terms without any break. Particularly when a party has a majority, it is unlikely that the chief minister would change before his term, unless some exceptional situation arises.

Pawan Kumar Chamling has been the longest-serving chief minister of any Indian state after Independence. Chamling, the founder president of the Sikkim Democratic Front, governed Sikkim between 1994 and 2019. He is followed by Jyoti Basu, who served as the chief minister of West Bengal between 1977 and 2000.

Starting his term in 2000, Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik has been serving as the state’s chief minister for more than two decades now. Manik Sarkar ruled Tripura from 1998 to 2018. The list also included Mohan Lal Sukhadia in Rajasthan (1954–1971), Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh (2003-2018), Sheila Dikshit in Delhi (1998-2013), Tarun Gogoi in Assam (2001-2016), Okram Ibobi Singh in Manipur (2002-2017), and Narendra Modi in Gujarat (2001-2014).

Here’s the list of the chief ministers that have been replaced since March:

Trivendra Singh Rawat replaced by Tirath Singh Rawat as Uttarakhand Chief Minister in March

Just days before his fourth anniversary in office, Trivendra Singh Rawat, who served as the Uttarakhand chief minister since 2017, was replaced by Lok Sabha MP Tirath Singh in March. The state is scheduled to go to assembly polls next year. Several reasons were cited for his exit, including the alleged growing disquiet in the BJP’s state unit over Rawat’s style of functioning.

Sarbananda Sonowal replaced by Himanta Biswa Sarma as Assam CM in May

Sarma replaced Sonowal after the latter completed his term and the state went for polls in May. The BJP was re-elected to power and decided to give the charge to Sarma, who was the charioteer of the saffron party’s stride in the Northeast.

Tirath Singh Rawat replaced by Pushkar Singh Dhami as Uttarakhand Chief Minister in July

In just less than four months after taking charge as the Uttarakhand chief minister, Tirath Singh Rawat submitted his resignation in July. The reasons cited for his exit included the party’s inability to get him elected to the Assembly within six months of taking oath. The term of the assembly is ending in March 2022 and since it is less than a year, the EC may not order a by-poll for the vacant seats in assembly. Under the Representation of the People Act, a by-election for a seat should not be held if the term of a House is less than a year. Pushkar Singh Dhami was chosen as the next chief minister of Uttarakhand by the state BJP legislative party.

BS Yediyurappa replaced by Basavaraj Bommai as Karnataka Chief Minister in July

Karnataka too witnessed a change of guard in July when Yediyurappa resigned from his post after completing two years in office. The state, which will be going for polls in 2023, saw the change as 78-year-old Yediyurappa had crossed the party’s unwritten rule of retirement at 75.

Vijay Rupani replaced by Bhupendrabhai Patel as Gujarat CM in September

Rupani served as the chief minister of Gujarat between 2016 and 2021. He put in his papers with more than 14 months to go for his second term as CM. He did not complete his term this time but he did get a chance to celebrate five years in office, including 1.5 years in the last assembly. He had replaced Anandiben Patel in similar circumstances in August 2016. The state went for polls in December 2017.

Amarinder Singh replaced by Charanjit Singh Channi as Punjab Chief Minister in September

While so far the chief ministers from states ruled by the BJP were being replaced, in a surprise move, the Congress too changed its CM face mid-term. The state is scheduled to go for polls early next year, however, before Amarinder Singh could complete his second term in the office, he has been replaced by the Dalit leader. The 1942-born Singh is a former royal and is famous as ‘people’s maharaja’. Previously, Amarinder Singh served as the Chief Minister of Punjab between 2002 and 2007. Post 1997, he is the first Punjab chief minister who did not complete his five-year term.

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