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As Uttarakhand votes, tough battle ahead for top Congress, BJP leaders

Wooing voters in the assembly elections won’t be easy for top leaders

assembly elections Updated: Mar 10, 2017 16:55 IST
Nihi Sharma
Chief minister Harish Rawat is contesting from two seats.
Chief minister Harish Rawat is contesting from two seats.(HT File)

Dehradun: Wooing voters in the assembly elections won’t be easy for top leaders of Congress and BJP in Uttarakhand.

The biggest challenge is for chief minister Harish Rawat, who is contesting from two seats - Kiccha (US Nagar) and Haridwar Rural (Haridwar). Kiccha is one of the nine seats in US Nagar district. During the last assembly elections, Congress won only two seats - Sitarganj (Shailendra Mohan Singhal) and Jaspur (Vijay Bahuguna) - in the district. Remaining seven seats were claimed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Interestingly, both the Congress candidates, who had won in the district, have ditched the party and joined BJP. However, Rawat, who isn’t a voter either from Kiccha or from Haridwar Rural, is hopeful of winning the Kiccha seat, dominated by minority community voters. But what goes against him is that local sentiment does not seem in his favour.

Apparently, Haridwar Rural (See Box: Game of Thrones) has a few facts in his favour. He had been an MP from Haridwar. This assembly constituency also has healthy minority percentage, but looks divided. Presently, Swami Yatishwaranand of BJP holds the seat. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also has a strong presence in the region.

The other top leader of the party, state Congress chief Kishore Upadhyay, who is contesting for Sahaspur seat, was defeated by an independent candidate, Dinesh Dhanai, in Tehri constituency in the 2012 assembly elections, though with a slender margin of 377 votes. What goes against him that he is an outsider and face rebels.

Indira Hridyesh contesting from Haldwani and Pritam Singh fighting from Chakrata on the party ticket look better placed. Pritam is three-time winner from the Chakrata seat, which is ST dominated and Indira has been a cabinet minister. Ranjeet Rawat, a close aide of Rawat, is trying his luck from the Ramnagar seat. The seat was with Congress during the last elections when Amrita Rawat had won. But she later joined BJP.

Top leaders of BJP too will face challenges. State BJP chief Ajay Bhatt, who won in the 2012 assembly elections with a thin margin of 78 votes, has a tough battle ahead. In 2007, he was defeated by Karan Mahara, brother-in-law of Rawat. Congress has once again fielded Mahara against Bhatt. Pramod Nailwal, a BJP rebel who is fighting as an independent, may also add to Bhatt’s woes.

Harak Singh Rawat, a Congress rebel who is now contesting from Kotdwar on the BJP ticket, may face incumbency. He won in 2012 election from Rudraprayag. Saurabh Bahuguna, son of former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, also faces the “outsider” taboo. Though senior Bahuguna contested the by-election in 2014 from the seat and had worked in the area, but a heavy vote bank of Bengali community may affect Saurabh’s chances.

However, BJP’s Satpal Maharaj, who is contesting against Congress candidate Rajpal Singh Bisht for Chaubattakhal seat, may benefit from the fact that his village falls in the constituency and he has a large number of followers.

Yashpal Arya, a cabinet minister in the Harish Rawat government who switched loyalty to the BJP, is contesting from Bajpur seat. Votes on this seat, reserved for an SC candidate, may get divided as Congress has fielded Sunita Tamta Bajwa. Sunita, niece of BJP MP Almoa Ajay Tamta, has an advantage, as she will not only woo 32% SC votes, but also 24% Punjabi voters for being married in the Punjabi community.