If there’s one thing common between both Congress and the BJP in Uttarakhand, it’s their failure to prevent rebel party members from contesting against their state presidents.
BJP state president Ajay Bhatt is locked in a fierce battle at Ranikhet in Almora district, well aware that he had beat rival Congress candidate Karan Mahara by just 78 votes in the 2012 polls. He can only hope that fortune favours him this time too, given that he has one more competitor – district panchayat member and party rebel Pramod Nainwal – to contend with.
As Nainwal is a Brahmin, just like Bhatt, he may eat into votes from the community.
The BJP has taken strong action against a number of party members who refused to withdraw their candidature in favour of official candidates. State general secretary Naresh Bansal recently issued a letter sacking 17 rebels from primary membership of the party for six years.
On Thursday, the Congress expelled 23 rebels from primary membership for six years. “The party will take appropriate action (against the rebels),” spokesperson MD Joshi had said earlier. Congress rebel Arvendra Sharma had lost by a margin of over 4,000 votes to his BJP rival in 2012. Though he was seen as a probable candidate in the Muslim-dominated seat, the party eventually picked PCC president Kishore Upadhyay over him.
Congress crisis managers from New Delhi have been camping in Dehradun for the last few days. They had earlier succeeded in placating rebel candidates in four other seats, the most significant among them being party general secretary Shilpi Arora.
Arora had filed her papers against chief minister Harish Rawat from Kichha constituency.
The BJP, however, is still a long way from dousing the rebellion that’s threatening to play havoc with its electoral prospects. Barring sitting MLA Vijaya Barthwal, who had filed her nomination papers against former chief minister BC Khanduri’s daughter in Yamkeshwar, the state party leadership has been unsuccessful in mollifying any of the rebels in its midst.
While the BJP has given tickets to 10 Congress turncoats in the upcoming elections, the latter has done the same for three candidates from the BJP. As many as 51 candidates withdrew their bids on Wednesday, the last day for doing so, leaving over 400 contenders for 70-odd seats in Uttarakhand.