Bhimtal BJP MLA Dan Singh Bhandari stunned many within his party and outside by vacating his legislative assembly seat to reportedly join the Congress late last week.
While many Congress members vying for a ticket to this seat were taken aback by Bhandari’s move on Friday night, contenders in the BJP camp may also have to redraw their political strategies.
Bhandari, who supposedly offered to vacate his seat for chief minister Harish Rawat two years ago, was said to be a weak link in the party. Also, there were reports that the MLA planned to vote for the Congress during the recent floor test, and had even met Rawat at the Kathgodam Circuit House for the purpose. However, Bhandari denied any such development.
There are many contenders in the Congress for the Bhimtal ticket, including block chief Geeta Bisht’s husband Harish and local party leaders Kunwar Singh Negi and Pushkar Mehra. Ram Singh Kaida, who contested the assembly elections against Bhandari in 2012, is likely to be in the fray too.
On the other hand, the BJP’s list of hopefuls comprises former minister Govind Singh Bisht and local leader Dhruv Rautela.
Rohit Shekhar, the biological son of former chief minister ND Tiwari, also aspires to land the Congress ticket to Bhimtal although he is not a party member. Shekhar has reportedly met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi in the past with requests in this regard.
Nainital Congress district president Satish Semwal said if Bhandari joins the party, his role in the organisation and eligibility to contest from Bhimtal will be decided by its leadership alone. BJP state spokesperson Anil ‘Dabbu’, on the other hand, contended that “Bhandari has not resigned, and he can still discuss his issues in the party forum”.
Bhandari launched his political career around 15 years ago, while he was still a clerk at a local cooperative bank. He set up the Parvatiya Kisan Utthan Manch in Ramgarh block, and was later elected as the block chief of Ramgarh. Bhandari then joined the BJP and received a ticket to the Bhimtal seat, which he subsequently won.