Will the hotly-contested Karnaprayag seat in Chamoli district prove to be the lucky charm for the Congress? That’s what party leaders are hoping as the seat goes to the polls on Thursday (March 9), in the backdrop of the BJP making fervent efforts to wrest the constituency from the ruling party.
While elections to the rest of the 69 seats of the state assembly were held on February 15, polling to Karnaprayag was postponed following the death of BSP candidate Kuldeep Kanwasi on February 12.
Karnaprayag constituency lies on the border of Garhwal and Kumaon regions and houses Gairsain - which hill dwellers have been demanding for long to be made as the permanent capital of Uttarakhand.
In the 2012 polls, Congress nominee Anusuya Prasad Maikhuri – the deputy speaker of the outgoing assembly –defeated Independent candidate Surendra Singh Negi by just 227 votes.
The Congress, which lost half a dozen of its MLAs from the Garhwal region to the BJP last year, went on an overdrive to campaign in Karnaprayag, to ensure that it returns to power – but with a “sizeable margin” this time around.
As the lone remaining seat became a ‘prestige issue’ for both the Congress and the BJP, the grand old party’s poster boy chief minister Harish Rawat visited the seat - traditionally considered a BJP stronghold - extensively during the last phase of campaigning.
“Aap mujhe Maikhuri (Congress MLA) do, main aapko Gairsain dunga,” the CM gave a clarion call to the locals addressing them on the last day of campaigning on Tuesday, hinting that the Congress, if returned to power, will take a conclusive decision on making the hill town the state’s capital.
“We have worked a lot for the development of Gairsain, unlike the BJP which has only been playing with the people’s sentiments,” CM Rawat said.
Others in the poll fray on the seat include BJP’s Surendra Singh Negi and Indresh Maikhuri of Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (Liberation) and Jyoti Kanwasi (BSP).
While the Congress is banking on a series of development works conducted by its government in the region, the saffron party, on the other hand, is counting on a ‘Modi wave’ and Rishikesh-Karnaprayag railway line and all-weather road projects pushed by its Central government, to get the better of the Congress.
“There’s no way they (Congress) are returning to power...and certainly not on this seat,” Negi, this time a BJP candidate, told HT.
The seat has total 96,579 voters, including 91,849 general and 4,730 service voters. Of these, 49,583 voters are male and 46,996 voters female.