Independent candidate Om Gopal Rawat and BJP’s Subodh Uniyal will clash for the third time in Narendra Nagar, where Congress’ Himanshu Bijalwan may queer the pitch for Uniyal in case of caste polarisation.
Largely a hill-locked constituency, Narendra Nagar falls in Tehri district. Both BJP and Congress nominated Brahmin candidates whereas the Independent candidate is a Rajput. Congress strategists admit they fielded Bijalwan to cut into Brahmin vote bank of BJP. Analysts feel the odds will be heavily stacked against Uniyal, if Brahmin votes get divided, and benefit the Independent candidate. Rawat, a BJP rebel, filed his nomination as an Independent after the opposition party gave ticket to Uniyal. The Narendra Nagar MLA joined BJP in the wake of the political crisis that gripped the state last year. In fact, Uniyal along with eight other former Congress legislators switched sides to join BJP.
“The going will not be easy for him (Uniyal) in case of caste polarisation. The ‘defector’ tag he carries after quitting Congress to join the opposition may also damage his electoral prospects,” Devendra Dumoga, a veteran journalist based in Tehri, said.
It was due to caste polarisation that Uniyal lost Narendra Nagar to Rawat by just four votes in 2007, he said. Although Rawat was then a member of Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, he contested on a BJP ticket, which he joined subsequently. “In the next (2012) assembly election, Rawat lost to Uniyal, then a Congress candidate, by a narrow margin of some 300 votes, or, so,” Dumoga said.
Rawat is said to have a good hold over the voters in hilly areas of Narendra Nagar whereas Uniyal enjoys a sizeable following among the voters in foothills.
“A swing among outside voters may also make or mar electoral prospects of candidates,” Dumoga said, referring to denizens of the Ghansali-Muni-Ki-Reti stretch. “Most of these residents hail from different areas of Tehri district and other states like Bihar.” But Dumoga maintained that the caste polarisation happens only occasionally.
Many analysts agreed to that and said in such a case, Uniyal would have a clear edge on the basis of the work he did for this constituency. “He got sanctioned and implemented a number of development schemes for the constituency after he was elected five years ago,” another Tehri-based journalist Arvind Nautiyal said. “Most these projects were sanctioned and implemented during a little over two-year duration when he was a part of the ruling Congress.”
Nautiyal said Uniyal’s main rival Rawat enjoys following among the youths.