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BJP-Congress lock horns, match for match as Feb 15 approaches

As the Congress Party declared its first list of 63 names after much deliberation the course is clear for a tough bout

Congress BJP lock hornsThe Congress party, the grand old party of India, chose to rely on its experience, and has not given in, as they lock horns with the BJP to win the public mandate on February 15. The assembly elections seemed to be swinging only one way as the BJP inflicted one wound after another in the past week. They released their first list of names, pulling many Congress leaders with tall stature in Uttarakhand politics. Some names were jolts to even the Congress central leadership, including ND Tiwari (even if only symbolically) and Yashpal Arya (former State President for the Congress Party in Uttarakhand).

After much ado, delay and waiting for BJP to go through with all its plays, the Uttarakhand Congress party put out its combination. Announcing party tickets from 63 assembly constituencies, the Congress parliamentary board listed Harish Rawat shall contest from two constituencies Kichcha and Haridwar (Rural).

Rajpal Kharola was confirmed from Rishikesh after many ups and downs and multiple rounds of deliberation on the other options available. In a repeat of the 2012 matchup, he will be competing against two time sitting MLA Premchand Aggarwal. Aggarwal, was confirmed from the Rishikesh assembly constituency by the BJP for a third time even amid protests by the local BJP party cadre in support of Sandeep Gupta (being a local from Rishikesh).

While, Himanshu Bijalwan has been fielded from Narendranagar, Hira Singh Bisht confirmed his ticket from Doiwala. Brahmaswaroop Brahmchari already celebrated getting his confirmation from Haridwar, a day before for his impressive showing when Rahul Gandhi had visited a week earlier.

While the BJP went on the offensive last week and announced party tickets for as many as 12 former Congress leaders including Yashpal Arya who had joined the ranks only a day earlier.

The Congress returned the favour in their list by announcing tickets to former BJP leaders including Suresh Chand Jain from Roorkee, Dan Singh Bhandari from Bhimtal, Bhim Lal Arya from Ghansali, Shailendra Singh Rawat from Yamkeshwar and Haji Taslim Ahmed from Laksar.

In the Congress list a few new entrants also got tickets including Himanshu Bijalwan from Narendranagar, Rajkumar from Purola, and Ambrish Kumar from BHEL Ranipur, showing the gaps opened up by the exit of the other leaders.

The Harish Rawat backed Progressive Alliance members Mantri Prasad Naithani from Deoprayag, and Harish Durgapal from Lalkuan also got Congress party tickets. Further, Dinesh Dhanai has also been given a clear field as his competitor for the Tehri seat within the Congress ranks Kishore Upadhyay has been fielded from the Sahaspur assembly constituency.

Women candidates not getting enough representation continued to be a problem, only 8 women including Indira Hridyesh from Haldwani, Godavari Thapli from Mussoorie, Sarita Arya from Nainital, Mamta Rakesh from Bhagwanpur, Laxmi Rana from Rudraprayag, Ganga Pachauli from Salt, Suneeta Bajwa from Bazpur, and Malti Bishwas from Sitarganj were given the Congress party nod.

While the line up lacks the promise of giving youth leaders tickets, as projected by Harish Rawat in the run up to the polls. The Congress line up looks like a b-team as well much like the line up put out by the BJP last week was taunted as a Congress b-team by many commentators.

Rebel Rising 2.0: Now within BJP ranks
After the BJP announced its list of candidates dropping a few sitting MLAs, some of their own stalwarts and further crushing the ambitions of others there has been a slew of party leaders willing to contest on their own. Such constituencies included Roorkee, Chaubattakhal, Mussoorie, Kedarnath, Yamkeshwar and Bhimtal among others. Two-time Sitting MLA Vijaya Barthwal from Yamkeshwar also indicated her displeasure with the party leadership for giving her seat where she has worked for the last two decades to BC Khanduri’s daughter Ritu Khanduri ignoring her aspirations.

The poll speculations indicate BJP gaining favour

The overall effect of the Narendra Modi wave seems to be dying down on the fringes of this election campaign. His fantasy run seems to be hitting obstacles in Bengal and Bihar from Manipur to Uttar Pradesh and in Delhi from Punjab to Goa, no one is reckoning any force with the Narendra Modi wave from 2014, then why should it be a factor in Uttarakhand in 2017? And it doesn’t figure.

The Harish Rawat led Congress government lost the mandate months ago, yet limped on to finish its term but now in the wake of a nothing opposition it seems to be gaining favour.

While both parties could easily score 20-21 seats in their strongholds, it is a contest for a tight 20 seats which could go either way; giving one party a big lead or if they split over these 20 as well, it might result in the same 31-31 fragmented verdict from 2012. The role that the smaller parties play in garnering those 5-7 seats will also be crucial. While TGC sees an advantage for the BJP in the elections, massively for reasons of incumbency but the inaction of the BJP state leadership for more than 4 years has left the Uttarakhandi people with little hope.

However, we still believe that the Congress list gives the impression of a confident reply to the stronger BJP list. A closer look shows Harish Rawat putting his foot down for the PDF inclusion. It also shows a certain scrambling for a few coveted seats.

Kishore Upadhyay seemed to be helpless as in fighting and protests erupted at the party headquarters in Dehradun soon after the announcement of his own and a few surprise candidates fielded like Suryakant Dhasmana from Dehradun Cantt.

On paper, Congress seems to be the underdog in the fight to win the Uttarakhand assembly elections 2017. However, the public mood is still split, Modi hasn’t delivered on his promises but neither are the people satisfied with the Harish Rawat government, who lost mandate almost a year ago.

January 24, 2017

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Vaibhav Saklani

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