Seen as a polite and courteous leader, the new Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Tirath Singh Rawat, who comes from a humble farmer family, once ran a PCO with his friends during his college days."The best part of the PCO story is that Tirath Singh did not run the phone booth for himself, but contributed the earnings to his friends like us," said the CM's old friend and BJP worker Sanjeev Chouhan, a resident of Srinagar in Pauri Garhwal.On Thursday morning, Sanjeev Chouhan drove 148 km from Srinagar to Dehradun to present a bouquet of roses to Tirath Singh at his residence."When he was in the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP, RSS' student wing), I was a small-time party worker. To meet the day-to-day expenses, Tirathji had set up a small PCO (public call office) at the Nagarpalika Marg in Srinagar for us. Whenever Tirathji found time, he used to sit in the PCO," recalled Chouhan (48), who still earns his bread through a small dairy comprising a few buffaloes.Another acquaintance of Tirath Singh's college days, Vikas Kukreti (46), said that politicians like him are hard to find these days."Our teetotaller CM, who loves to eat 'khichdi', is a very down to earth person. I met him in 1989 when I was studying in Class X. By then, he was an established student leader from the local Garhwal University.
During that period, he lived in a one room rented house located near the Nanda Devi Temple in Srinagar. Three years later, when my parents bought a Bajaj scooter for me, I used to offer ride to Tirathji. Whereever he went, I was ready to help him," Kukreti, now a small-time contractor, told IANS over phone.During late '90s, Tirath Singh had become the poster boy of the BJP in Pauri Garhwal. Top BJP leaders in Lucknow, including Rajnath Singh and Kalyan Singh, had recognised the potential of a young Rawat Tirath Singh. By 1997, he was elected as a member of the UP Vidhan Parishad."When he (Tirath Singh) became the MLC, we still found him as simple as he was. Though he became an important person, occupied with a lot of political work, his personality certainly remained the same... In fact, he became more courteous, especially with people on the streets," said Narendra Kumar (43), a BJP worker from Kirtninagar area in Srinagar.Top sources in the BJP said that high integrity, polite behaviour and acceptability of Tirath Singh in all factions of Uttrakhand's saffron brigade were the key factors acknowledged by the top leadership in finalising his name as the new CM from the list which had names of several stalwarts."Eeven when Tirathji was the President of Uttarakhand BJP (2013 to 2015), he never set his sight on the top post (of CM). He never discussed such things with us or his close aides. I think by appointing him as the CM, the party has taken the best decision in favour of the people," said Chouhan.It's no wonder that when Tirath Singh's name was declared as the new CM of the Himalayan state, his first public statement was, "I had never imagined that I would reach here."