Dehradun: The anti-incumbency factor and the delay in announcing candidates for three seats — Haridwar, Tehri and Pauri-Garhwal — may go against the ruling Congress in the ensuing poll battle. While it did not change Pradeep Tamta for Almora seat, KC Singh Bawa was retained for Nainital-Udhamsingh Nagar seat. BJP candidate and former chief minister Bhagat Singh Koshiyari will now have to lock horns with Bawa.
Although the official announcement was made late on Saturday evening, Koshiyari may get the advantage of being an early bird, his supporters said.
“Besides, he has been canvassing in his constituency for the past several months,” said Bachhi Singh Raikwal, a BJP leader based in Haldwani.
“The biggest advantage going in his (Koshiyari’s) favour is the Modi wave,” Raikwal said.
However, all these advantages can be off-set by the infighting within the BJP that came to the fore recently after former state party president Bachhi Singh Rawat resigned from all party posts after being denied ticket from Nainital.
“Though BJP has pacified him by making him the head of the election campaign committee in state, most of his supporters are still unhappy and are not pitching in for Koshiyari’s election campaign,” said Rajendra Singh Khanwal, a Congress leader from Haldwani. And BJP insiders agree.
The case is not different with the ruling Congress party. Its leaders said the infighting might damage its prospects in the Nainital LS seat if the high command chose to repeat its sitting MP Baba.
The buzz is that Baba may be repeated. He defeated his main rival Bachhi Singh Rawat by a huge margin in the 2009 LS election. In case, he is again fielded from Nainital, Baba will be contesting his third consecutive election from that seat, which he has been winning since the 2004 LS election. Then he defeated his nearest rival, BJP’s Vijay Bansal, by nearly 1.5 lakh votes.
Before that, the seat was represented by Congress’ Mahendra Singh Pal, who won from there in the 2002 Lok Sabha by-poll.
Incidentally, Mahendra Singh Pal has long been in the race for ticket for Nainital seat, but each time Baba proved to be the high command’s favourite. Pal is again trying for the Nainital ticket, party sources said.
If Baba gets ticket again, it will cause resentment among the Pal supporters, which will affect his rival’s (Baba’s) electoral prospects, the sources added.
Besides, whoever gets the Congress ticket from Nainital, he/she will have to face the anti-incumbency factor as it (Congress) has been representing that parliamentary constituency consecutively for three times.
Yet, the Congress is not entirely out of the contest for two reasons, party insiders said. “We may still win the Nainital seat, if Muslims who constitute 15% of the local electorate and are generally sympathetic towards the Congress choose to vote en bloc in our party’s favour,” said Congress leader Rajendra Singh Khanwal. “Last time the Muslim voters voted for the BJP…As a result, we lost the Nainital seat by a huge margin”, he added.
Khanwal said the Congress could also hope to get electoral dividends for the development works carried out by Congress veteran ND Tiwari in Nainital during his stints as an MP and the CM.