Kapkot has traditionally been a BJP strong hold but the Congress wrested the assembly seat in 2012 after three straight defeats, including the 2009 by-polls.
The battle in Kapkot –a hill assembly of Almora parliamentary constituency in Bageshwar –is likely to be a repeat of 2012, where the sitting Congress legislator Lalit Farswan will face the BJP in a tough contest.
Former chief minister and Lok Sabha member Bhagat Singh Koshyari defeated Congress candidates in 2002 and 2007 by 8,514 votes and 9,516 votes respectively.
BJP’s Sher Singh Garhia defeated Congress’ Kunti Parihar in the 2009 by-election after Koshyari vacated the seat as he was elected to Rajya Sabha.
A typical hill assembly segment, Kapkot is divided into Kanda Kamsar and Kapkot valleys, still lacks road infrastructure and drinking water lift schemes and people have to travel far to fetch water. Schools are also need to be upgraded.
While the Congress is certain to field its sitting MLA, the BJP is struggling to finalise a candidate as there are three strong contenders–former legislators Balwant Singh Bhauriyal, Sher Singh Garhia and Bhupesh Upadhyay.
While Bhauriyal, who lost to Farswan in the 2012 assembly elections, has strong backing of BJP national general secretary and former RSS pracharak Shiv Prakash, Upadhyay’s chances of being nominated is buttressed by fellow BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.
Sources in the BJP, however, said that Nainital MP Bhagat Singh Koshyari—being local and influential leader of the state—is likely to have the last laugh in the wrangle for a ticket for Kapkot.
Although Koshyari supporter Suresh Garhia is also vying for a ticket is unlikely that he will get the support of his mentor for being a “light weight” candidate. Upadhyay has the edge in getting the ticket as he will be the first candidate form the Kanda valley that accounts for more that 50% vote share of the constituency.
The Congress too is not free from infighting as two senior party leaders– Bhagat Singh Dasila and Pratap Singh Chutia–are likely to contest as independents against Farswan.
Chief minister Harish Rabat’s first meeting has not helped in sorting out difference among ticket aspirants, but Farswan is confident that the two rebel leaders will finally toe the party line.
“The two rebel party leaders will abide by the party diktat, irrespective what the opposition wants. The Congress is strong in Kapkot and win again. I have exhausted most of my MLA local area development fund for lift water schemes and renovation of roads and construction of bridges on local rivulets,” said Farswan.
“Regardless of what the BJP is claiming, people in the remote hill areas are still facing a cash crunch and farmers have failed to get money for procuring seeds and manures. The BJP will have to pay for this in the elections,” he said.