With an eye on nearly 59% Rajput voters in Uttarakhand, the Congress has fielded three Rajput candidates out of five Lok Sabha seats in state. Renuka Rawat, KC Singh ‘Baba’ and Harak Singh Rawat belong to the Rajput community.
While Tehri candidate Saket Bahuguna is a Brahmin, the Almora seat is reserved for Schedule Caste candidates.
Haridwar candidate Renuka Rawat is the wife of chief minister Harish Rawat. She had unsuccessfully contested the 2004 polls from Almora parliamentary segment. Daughter of former minister Govind Singh Mahara, Renuka, will take on BJP candidate and former chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.
Buzz in the Congress circles suggest that the party has tactfully played the Rajput card in a bid to counter its main rival, the BJP — which has otherwise maintained equilibrium in ticket distribution. The BJP has fielded two Rajputs — Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Mala Rajlaxmi Shah — and two Brahmins — BC Khanduri and Nishank. The Congress has given ticket to lone Brahmin Saket, who is the son of ex-CM Vijay Bahuguna. He will face BJP’s sitting MP Shah in Tehri.
“It is not the caste factor but the factors like the candidate’s political experience and rapport among workers that have been taken into consideration,” claimed Congress spokesperson Surender Kumar.
Renuka will contest from Haridwar — the seat presently represented by the CM. However, in Pauri, Harak Singh Rawat emerged as a last moment choice. Though initially, Singh, a cabinet minister in the Congress government, was reluctant on contesting polls. It was only after he was persuaded by followers to contest polls as it could help him rise as a Rajput leader in the party, that he agreed to contest polls.
Before switching allegiances to the BJP, Pauri MP Satpal Maharaj was tagged as the undisputed Rajput leader within Congress circles.
In the changed political scenario, Rawat will counter BJP’s strong candidate ex-CM BC Khanduri in Pauri constituency. Pauri has a sizeable number of Rajput voters, though a large section comprise ex-soldiers and their families. They might just favour Khanduri, because of his defence background.
On the other hand, the Nainital seat will witness a contest between two Rajput candidates — Baba and Koshyari, while the Congress will largely bank upon Muslim voters in Haridwar.