Khanduri takes oath as new Uttarakhand CM

Dehradun: Political observers described the move as a "face-saving formula" of the ruling BJP in the state. After B S Yeddyurappa in Karnataka, Nishank has become the second chief minister to be removed by the BJP high command in a little over a month. Nishank, who arrived from New Delhi this morning after talks with party leadership, went to Raj Bhavan to hand over his resignation to the Governor Alva.

Nishank later told reporters, "I`m a party worker. I will do whatever the party wants me to do." Later, Major Gen (Retd) Khanduri, an old war-horse, was elected as the new leader by BJP MLAs unanimously at a meeting where Ravishankar Prasad and state incharge Thavar Chandra Gehlot acted as central observers.

The high-drama began unfolding on Friday with rumours that Nishank was on his way out. Sources said the decision to remove Nishank was taken by the BJP parliamentary board after assessing the political situation in Uttarakhand.

They claimed that senior BJP leader L K 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 Nishank 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.

The party was also riddled with infighting among the camps led by Nishank, Khanduri and former chief minister Bhagat Singh Koshiyari.Senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh, however, said the change of guard was part of poll strategy and ruled out any kind of "groupism" in the state."

The decision was taken unanimously and there is no groupism. Nishank will have an effective role to play in the party," Singh told reporters in Lucknow.Elections to the 70-member Assembly in Uttarakhand were held in early 2007.