BJP president Amit Shah’s strategy to effect a rebellion in the opposition camp and give tickets to political turncoats threatens to spoil the party’s electoral prospects on at least a dozen seats in Uttarakhand.
In a closely contested election, these seats could be crucial to the BJP’s ambition to return to power.
“Hum toh unke bina bhi jeet jaate. Pata nahi dilli wale ko kaun salah deta hai. (We would have won even without them. Don’t know who advises (our leaders) in Delhi),” says a BJP office bearer, referring to a dozen Congress leaders who rebelled against chief minister Harish Rawat last year and defected to BJP.
All of them, and three more, have been given tickets by the BJP leadership, causing unrest among party cadre.
The party had taken on the then CM Vijay Bahuguna over irregularities in Kedarnath disaster relief works. Bahuguna joined BJP last year and his son Saurabh Bahuguna is party’s candidate from Sitarganj. Bahuguna also got ticket for over half other candidates close to him.
Besides, BJP had attacked Rudraprayag MLA and veteran Congress leader Harak Singh Rawat on issues of “morality” following molestation charges against him. He is now BJP’s candidate from Kotdwar this time.
As many as 11 such turncoats are testing the waters from Garhwal region—and more in other parts of the state—which accounts for 22 seats spread across Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Tehri Garhwal, Garhwal and some parts of Dehradun. Garhwal is a BJP stronghold, but Congress dominated the region in 2012, winning 12 seats and leaving BJP with only seven.
“Having carried out a campaign against these leaders in the past, how do we defend them now?” a district BJP chief asked, requesting anonymity. “That is the problem when local leaders are not consulted and things are decided by outsiders in Delhi,” adds a BJP MP from Uttarakhand.
BJP is dealing with this problem on two fronts. First, it has triggered rebellion among cadre, who fought these ‘tainted’ faces all these years.
Almost eight ticket aspirants in BJP refused to withdraw their nomination as independent candidates despite intervention from the party leadership on the seats given to these outsiders.
“How do you trust the BJP when it has fielded leaders against whom they fought so many years? Are we voting for the BJP or the Congress?”
BJP rebels are giving jitters to the party in Kedarnath, Narendra Nagar, Yamkeshwar, Gangotri, Srinagar, Chaubattakhal, Ranikhet and some others are also keeping the party on the tenterhooks.
Second, most of these Congress turncoats come with a ‘baggage’ that the party workers are finding difficult to carry.
The issue of rebellion largely concerns the organisation and is being managed. Union minister Jagat Prakash Nadda, Dharmendra Pradhan besides RSS’s pointsmen in the BJP, Ram Lal and Shiv Prakash are engaged in firefighting. RSS pracharaks, too, are engaged in trying to blunt the rebellion.
The ‘image problem’ of these outsiders is troubling BJP the most. It is part of the public discourse and is taking the fizz out of the BJP campaign for corruption-free Uttarakhand.
People, too, are not satisfied. “How do you trust the BJP when it has fielded leaders against whom they fought so many years? Are we voting for the BJP or the Congress?” asks Surendra Singh, a shopkeeper in Srinagar.