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Uttarakhand Congress  meekly ‘surrendered’ as BJP completes hatrick of triumphs in successive Lok Sabha polls  

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Uttarakhand Congress  meekly ‘surrendered’ as BJP completes hatrick of triumphs in successive Lok Sabha polls


Dehradun,  June 5

The result of the five Lok Sabha seats of Uttarakhand declared on June 4, 2024 was much on expected lines where ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) thoroughly trounced the main opposition Congress party making a record of a hatrick by winning all the five seats for a third time in a row. The BJP has defeated Congress on all the five seats in 2014, 2019 and now 2024 Lok Sabha elections marking the political decimation of the Congress party in the hill state.

The writing was on the wall in Uttarakhand from the word go as the Uttarakhand Congress literally gave a walk over to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the five Lok Sabha seats of the state. The choice of party candidates had given clear indication even before electioneering started that either the state level senior party leaders were hand in glove with the ruling BJP or under pressure of various government agencies and the party bosses in New Delhi were too weak, dumb or blind to bow to the blackmail of such state leaders and unable to see the ground realities.

The names of Congress party candidates on all the five seats showed that Uttarakhand Congress party leaders 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. All the three senior party leaders namely Harish Rawat, Pritam Singh and Yashpal Arya ran away from the electoral fight.

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. The results of the Lok sabha polls of 2024 are exact repeat of previous parliamentary elections.

The Congress party had put up Virender Rawat, son of former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat from Haridwar and Parkash Joshi from Nainital-Udham Singh Nagar seat. Both the candidates were political non- entities unknown to local voters and even local party workers and leaders and lost badly. Trivendra Singh Rawat, former BJP Chief Minister won  by getting 6,53,808 votes, more than 50 per cent of the total votes, against 4,89,752 votes secured by Virender Rawat.

Harish Rawat who himself shied away from the contest, lobbied hard to get a party ticket for his elder son Virender Rawat and wanted 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 buy it.  A majority of the votes polled by Virender Rawat were of minority Muslim community  who form a sizeable population in Haridwar Lok Sabha seat. Similar fate awaited Prakash Joshi, a secretary of All India Congress Committee (AICC) who has done his politics mostly in New Delhi than in Uttarakhand. Considered close to Rahul Gandhi, a qualification which perhaps got him a party nomination but,  unknown in the area not many in the Congress party can relate to him and lost badly. His proximity to Rahul Gandhi cannot bring him votes. He was trounced by Ajay Bhatt, a Union Minister from Nainital-Udham singh Nagar seat by a margin of more than three lakh votes. Ajay Bhatt polled 7,72,671 against 4,38123 votes polled by Prakash Joshi.

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 made the task of BJP easy. The nomination of Harish Rawat, senior most Congress leader who has been calling the shots in the party for decades from Haridwar and Yashpal Arya, a dalit leader and leader of opposition in state assembly from either Almora (reserve) or Nainital-UdhamSingh Nagar could have made a difference.

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 also preferred to settle his own family feud by launching his son’s political career as he was allegedly accused by his sons from his first wife of being ignored politically. His daughter Anupma Rawat is a Congress legislator from haridwar winning in 2022 state assembly polls.

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 could not even win Mussoorie Municipal elections.

The result from Tehri were also on expected lines as BJP sitting MP Mala Raj Luxmi Shah of erstwhile royal family of Tehri won by a comfortable margin by securing 4,62,603 votes, more than 53 per cent of the total votes polled against 1,90,110 votes polled by Congress candidate Jot Singh Gunsola. Most interestingly, Bobby Panwar, a young leader of the Uttarakhand Berozgar Sangh, who fought as an independent showed mirror to the Congress party by getting 1,68,081 votes. Bobby Panwar who had been in forefront of various struggles particularly against corruption and manipulation of competitive examinations for government jobs and was jailed by BJP state government, fought a spirited election. With support from poor village youth, he showed that a firm resolve, commitment and spirit to fight could earn respect and support from he masses.

The only decent fight was put up by Ganesh Godiyal of Congress from Pauri Garhwal,  who took on Anil Baluni, a blue eyed boy of Modi-Shah combine and incharge of BJP’s national media cell but was defeated. Anil Baluni got 4,32,159 votes, more than 58 per cent of the total votes polled while Ganesh Godiyal polled 2,68,656 votes. Earlier, Ganesh Godiyal was also reluctant to fight but after nomination gave a tough fight to his BJP rival. Similar fate awaited   Pardaeep Tamta from Almora ( reserve) as he was trounced by Ajay Tamta, third time in a row. Ajay Tamta secured 4,29167 votes, more than 64 per cent of the votes as compared to 1,95,070 votes received by Pradeep Tamta. Without resources and unwillingness to work hard on the ground, Congress workers could not even go to the villages and gave a walkover. More than 8000 ‘Nyaya Patra’, the manifesto pamphlets of the Congress party remained dumped in the party office at Almora as there was no one to distribute to the voters. The party leaders are in a quandary about what to do with those pamphlets.

While there is exodus of party leaders to BJP in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections including  a former minister and senior Congress leader Dinesh Aggarwal and sitting legislator Rajinder Bhandari and scores of other former legislators and senior leaders. Those others who have left Congress included Manish Khanduri, son of former Chief minister B.C.Khanduri, senior Congress leader and former minister Harak Singh Rawat’s daughter-in-law Anukriti Gusain, party’s state general secretary Mahesh Sharma, former Congress MLAs Dhan Singh Negi (Tehri), Vijaypal Sajwan (Gangotri) and Mal Chand (Purola), party general secretary Laxmi Rana, and party’s former state vice president SP Singh ‘Engineer’.

Senior Congress leaders failed to campaign effectively and energetically and utterly failed to enthuse the workers at the grass root level. Harish Rawat refused to campaign anywhere except for his son in Haridwar. While, the BJP senior leadership including Prime Minister, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath campaigned vigorously, the Congress campaign was lacklustre with Priyanka Gandhi making a solo presence in the state. In a upper caste Hindu majority state which has been swayed by Hindutva, nationalism and Ram Mandir issues, the Congress leaders during election campaign or even after failed to rake up the issue of ‘Agniveer’ amongst the people of Garhwal and Kumaon which had been the nursery of Indian Army for past more than a century. While, the ‘Agniveer’ issue was the dominant issue elsewhere in Western UP, Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab affecting the poll outcome, the party leaders in Uttarakhand were unable to raise it properly and effectively.

Even the issues of massive forest fires, mismanagement of Char Dham yatra and alleged corruption did not find any echo with the top Congress leadership in the state. Most of the senior leaders keep mum on such important matters and the field is left to party spokespersons and middle level leaders.

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.

Selja , the party general secretary incharge had no clue about the happenings in the party and was more interested in her own election from Sirsa than Uttarakhand.

There is saying that when there are tough times, the tough get going which was shown by Congress leaders elsewhere in the country but not in Uttarakhand where most of the senior party leaders just meekly ‘surrendered’.  Most of the other senior state level party leaders shied away from contesting elections which is the ultimate test of a political party and political leader in a democracy.

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. The results of Lok Sabha polls of 2024 again showed that entire state Congress party is in disarray and needs complete overhaul to survive.



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