In a major change to the BJP’s Uttarakhand unit over four months after forming the government in the state, the party on Saturday appointed former MLA Mahendra Bhatt as president of its state unit.
The appointment order was issued by BJP national general secretary Arun Singh on Saturday morning. “Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president Jagat Prakash Nadda has appointed Mahendra Bhatt as state president of Uttarakhand BJP. The appointment is to take place with immediate effect,” read a letter issued by Singh.
Bhatt, a two-time BJP MLA, has replaced Haridwar MLA Madan Kaushik. In the 2022 Assembly elections, Bhatt lost the Badrinath constituency seat. With the politics of Uttarakhand much dependent on the dynamics of the Garhwal and Kumaon region as well as Thakurs and Brahmins, it is speculated that the appointment of Bhatt, a Brahmin leader from Garhwal, is to strike a balance between the politics of caste and region.
Of the state’s 13 districts, six fall under the Kumaon region, which has Nainital as its zonal headquarters. Garhwal, with Pauri Garhwal as headquarters, has seven districts and includes the capital Dehradun as well. It has 41 constituencies and is much larger than Kumaon, which has 29. Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami is a Thakur from the Kumaon region.
Bhatt started his active political career with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in 1991 and from 1998 to 2000 he took charge as Uttaranchal Yuva Morcha state secretary in undivided Uttar Pradesh. After Uttarakhand (then called Uttaranchal) was carved out from Uttar Pradesh, Bhatt was made the general secretary of the Yuva Morcha.
In 2002, when the first Assembly election for the new Uttarakhand state was held, Bhatt contested from the Nandprayag constituency and defeated Congress candidate Satendra Bartwal. He was also appointed the Yuva Morcha state president. Besides, he was made in-charge of Yuva Morcha in Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra.
After assuming several responsibilities within the party, he contested the Badrinath Vidhan Sabha seat in 2017 and defeated Congress candidate Rajendra Singh Bhandari. In 2022, however, he lost to Bhandari in the same seat by over 2,000 votes. Bhatt has also served 15 days in jail during the Ram Janmabhoomi Andolan and five days during the Uttarakhand Rajya Andolan.