Many legislators and ticket aspirants, who failed to figure in the BJP’s first list of candidates for the February 15 assembly polls, might contest as independents though they were not categorical about joining the Congress.
In its list of 64 candidates announced on Monday, the BJP denied tickets to four MLAs and many contenders. It fielded 10 former Congress MLAs, including minister Yashpal Arya who joined the party hours before the announcement. Former CM Vijay Bahuguna and Harak Singh Rawat, who were among those who had revolted against CM Harish Rawat in March last year, have been obliged.
Om Gopal, who was demanding the BJP ticket for the Narendra Nagar seat, was not accommodated to benefit Congress rebel Subodh Uniyal. He announced that he would contest as an independent. “Why should I join any party when I know I could win as an independent,” he told Hindustan Times on Tuesday.
He was in talks with Congress leaders, but dropped the plan to contest as a ruling party candidate, sources said. “He (Gopal) still hopes to replace Uniyal in the BJP list,” a source said.
BJP insiders claimed Harish Rawat would strike hard at the opposition party that took away 11 Congress legislators. “Rawat will take away at least 15 leaders from our party to make its going tough during elections,” a BJP leader said, requesting anonymity.
Surendra Kumar, media spokesperson to the CM, said, “We do have strong second-line leaders in our party. But, who says we won’t attack?”
The BJP denied ticket to Vijaya Barthwal, a three-time MLA from Yamkeshwar, to accommodate Ritu Bhushan Khanduri, daughter of Pauri MP and former chief minister BC Khanduri. Barthwal confirmed that she would contest assembly polls, but did not say whether she would join the Congress.
“Probably, senior leaders started thinking that Yamkeshwar is an easy seat to win. But they forgot that a candidate is the face of a party. I won the seat because I had worked passionately for the people,” Barthwal told HT on Tuesday. “I will definitely contest. I am yet to decide whether as an independent or as a Congress candidate.”
The BJP dropped Chaubattakhal MLA Tirath Singh and named Satpal Maharaj from the seat. But realising the importance of Singh, believed to be a close aide of Khanduri, the party had earlier announced that he would be the next state BJP chief.
Mahavir Singh Rangar, BJP MLA from Dhanolti, also did not figure in the candidates’ list, and the ticket was given to Narayan Singh Rana. “I am yet to strategise my move,” Rangar said.
The BJP fielded younger Vinod Kandhari from the Deoprayag seat, overlooking Brij Bhushan Gairola’s claim to the ticket. “For 30 years I worked for the party, and they simply sidelined me to give benefit to a young candidate. I will ask BJP heads to spell out the criteria for finalising tickets,” Gairola said. “They (BJP leaders) proved that dedicated candidates have no place in elections. I may not have money, but I do have support in my region.”