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Has the Uttarakhand Congress given a walk over to BJP in the Lok Sabha polls?

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Has the Uttarakhand Congress given a walk over to BJP in the Lok Sabha polls?


Dehradun, March 25

Has the Uttarakhand Congress party given a walk over to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the five Lok Sabha seats of the state? This question is being debated in the political circles and more particularly amongst the common party workers and sympathisers. The choice of party candidates that too after much deliberation by the so-called party high command gives an indication that either the state level senior party leaders were hand in glove with the ruling BJP or the party bosses in New Delhi are too weak, dumb or blind to bow to the blackmail of such state leaders and unable to see the ground realities.

The announcement of Congress party candidates for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections to be held in the first phase to be held on April 19, 2024 shows that party has merely fulfilled a formality of putting up candidates rather than showing a strong resolve to take on the powerful election machinery of BJP-RSS combine.

The Congress party had announced Virender Rawat, son of former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat from Haridwar and Parkash Joshi from Nainital-Udham Singh Nagar seat. Both the candidates are political non- entities unknown to local voters and even local party workers and leaders. Harish Rawat who lobbied hard to get a party ticket for his elder son Virender Rawat want everyone to believe that his son is a dedicated Congress party leader and worker but not many in the party at the grass root level want to accept. Similar is the case of Prakash Joshi, a secretary of All India Congress Committee (AICC) who has done his politics in New Delhi than in Uttarakhand. He is considered close to Rahul Gandhi, a qualification which perhaps got him party nomination. But, he is unknown in the area and not many in the Congress party can relate to him. His proximity to Rahul Gandhi cannot get him votes. Manish Khanduri, son of former Uttarakhand Chief Minister B.C.Khanduri was also close to Rahul Gandhi who walked with him from Kanyakumari to Kashmir in ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ but left the party a fortnight ago to join BJP.

Interestingly, the demographic of these two seats spread over mostly plain areas having diverse demography having sizeable population of Muslims, dalits and Other Backward Caste(OBCs) suited the Congress party in comparison to three hill seats having majority Hindu Upper caste population which has been betting on Hindutva politics of BJP-RSS led by prime Minister Narendra Modi. The three seats namely Tehri, Pauri and Almora were considered hundred per cent winnable by the ruling BJP and considered Haridwar and Nainital-Udham Singh Nagar as tough. But the choice of candidates by Congress party has relieved the BJP leadership of any tough fight. Earlier, the Congress party had nominated Ganesh Godiyal from Pauri Garhwal, Pardaeep Tamta from Almora ( reserve) and Jot Singh Gunsola from Tehri Garhwal

BJP Lok Ssabha candidates from Uttarakhand-Trivendra Singh rawat (Haridwar), Mala Rajluxmi Shah (Tehri), Ajay Tamta (Almora), Anil Baluni ( Pauri) and Ajay Bhatt ( Nainital-Udham Singh Nagar).

The BJP has won all the five Lok Sabha seats of Uttarakhand in 2014 and 2019 general elections.  This time ,the party has also announced to repeat it’s three sitting MPs from Tehri, Almora and Nainital-Udham Singh Nagar seats, namely Mala Raj Luxmi Shah(Tehri), Ajay Tamta (Almora) and Ajay Bhatt ( Nainital-Udham Singh Nagar). The party dropped its’ Haridwar and Pauri Garhwal candidates namely Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Tirath Singh Rawat, both former Chief Ministers. Trivendra Sngh Rawat , another former Chief Minister was given nomination from Haridwar while Anil Baluni, a former Rajya Sabha member considered close to Modi-Shah combine has been put up from Pauri Garhwal.

Much less said better about party general secretary incharge Selja who had no clue about the happenings in the party. A photo of her receiving Umesh J.Kumar , an independent legislator from Khanpur assembly segment of Haridwar went viral. Umesh. J. Kumar was also seeking Congress party nomination from Haridwar seat. He is the same person who was instrumental in bringing down the Harish Rawat led government in 2016 through a sting operation. Politics make strange bed fellows but the wounds of 2016 incidents are still raw and how could a party general secretary hob-nob with such a person.

Uttarakhand  is perhaps the only state in the country where the faction ridden Congress party, which is totally demoralised and in wreck after successive massive electoral defeats in 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections and 2017 and 2022 state assembly elections, found it difficult to find suitable potential candidates who could put up a respectable fight against the strong poll machinery of BJP-RSS.

While there is exodus of party leaders to BJP in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections including  a sitting legislator Rajinder Bhandari and scores of other former legislators and senior leaders.

There is saying that when there are tough times, the tough get going but in Uttarakhand Congress most of the senior party leaders who could have given a fight to the BJP, just meekly ‘surrendered’.  Most of the other senior state level party leaders shied away from contesting elections. Interestingly, most of the potential Congress party leaders publicly and privately announced their reluctance to contest elections which is the ultimate test of a political party and political leader in a democracy.

Former Chief Minister Harish Rawat, the tallest Congress leader who represented Haridwar Lok Sabha from 2009 till 2014 could have given a tough fight to BJP but he preferred to launch the political career of his elder son this time. The sword of a CBI case of alleged corruption is hanging on the head of Harish Rawat. He is also considered close to Trivendra Singh Rawat, BJP nominee from Haridwar.

Another party big wig Pritam Singh who is a legislator from Chakrata assembly segment and considered most suitable from Tehri to take on sitting MP Mala Raj Luxmi Shah, lobbied hard that none uttered his name in any party forum suggesting his candidature. Interestingly, he is member of the party’s central election committee and gave excuses to run away from the electoral field. He lobbied to get party nomination for a former legislator Jot Singh Gunsola from Mussoorie. Jot Singh Gunsola is old and inactive and according to party sources could not even win the Municipal elections.

There had been rumors about Pritam Singh joining the saffron party after being denied the post of Leader of Opposition by the Congress party which he vehemently denied. But it is a fact that he retained the bungalow earlier allotted to him as a Leader of Opposition in the last assembly due to the favour shown by Uttarkhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.

More interestingly, the Uttarakhand Congress Chief Karan Mahra has also been allotted a government bungalow as party chief of the main opposition party. It is anybody’ guess about their commitment in opposing the BJP-RSS combine in the state.

The only Congress candidate who appears to be putting up some fight namely Ganesh Godiyal, a former legislator from Pauri Garhwal seat has received three income notices after his nomination. But earlier he had also shown his reluctance to fight elections citing lack of resources.

Another senior party leader and Leader of Opposition Yashpal Arya, a legislator from Bazpur in Udham Singh Nagar district who could have given a fight to Ajay Tamta from Almora (reserve) was unwilling to contest.  The party has to bank on it’s old war horse Pardeep Tamta who twice lost to his BJP rival in 2014 and 2019.

The overall picture of Uttarakhand Congress is bleak with deceitful leaders at the helm of affairs who had no ideological commitment with the party but out to pander to their personal interests or of their own kith and kin. With the present state of affairs where the entire Uttarakhand Congress party is in disarray, a day is not far when the party had to close its shop after the 2024 general elections.


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