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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

In a rematch of 2012 by-poll in Tehri, can Saket exact revenge on Shah?

Abhinav Madhwal  Dehradun, April 22, 2014
First Published: 23:38 IST(22/4/2014) | Last Updated: 23:45 IST(22/4/2014)

Dehradun: The Tehri seat gets its name from the city which has now become synonymous with the Tehri dam. The establishment of this dam saw widespread protests in the state and its foundation was stalled for decades. The erstwhile Tehri state, which was ruled by the Parmar rulers, was integrated into India on 1 August 1949.

Mala Rajya Laxmi of the BJP emerged victorious from here in 2012, and the win was attributed mainly to the Congress government’s decision to reduce the number of annual subsidised LPG cylinders for domestic consumption from 12 to six.

Tehri constituency has traditionally been a bastion of Tehri royal family. Irrespective of which party the royals contest from, the voters in the hills remained loyal to the family. The Tehri royal family is regarded in Garhwal hills as Bolanda Badrinath or talking Badrinath god.

From 1957, the constituency was represented by Manvendra Shah, a member of the erstwhile Tehri royal family. Since then Shah, who had joined the BJP, remained the MP of Tehri eight times in a row till 2007, when he died.

In the by-election in 2007, Vijay Bahuguna of Congress wrenched the seat from BJP, who fielded Manujendra Shah from the seat. Manujendra Shah is also a member of the Tehri royal family and is the husband of Mala Rajya Laxmi.

However, when Bahuguna was made the chief minister in 2012, there was another by-election for Tehri. Congress fielded Bahuguna’s son Saket and BJP fielded Rajya Laxmi Shah, and Shah won the election. This time again, BJP has fielded Shah and Congress has repeated Saket.

It could be said that the magic of the royal family is losing its sheen in the Garhwal hills, but at the same time the royal family’s association with BJP is working well. The party hopes that the Modi wave and the humble image of party candidate will ensure her victory.  Meanwhile, the Congress is hoping that the presence of AAP in the poll battle this time would alter the result.

The Tehri constituency has been grappling with poor roads, inadequate irrigation facilities and increasing migration. The monsoons are the worst time of a year here when hilly routes witness landslides. The rehabilitation of the people displaced in the mid-June flash floods last year and the repair of the deluge-hit Tehri Dam are still not underway.

The government had drawn plans for developing water sport and adventure activities at the Tehri Dam, but nothing much has been done in this regard. The debate over the utility versus adverse effects of hydropower projects is also stalling several power projects in the region.

As regards the population of the constituency, Tehri has a mix of several caste communities and classes. Sanitation, lack of employment and rising crime graph are the problems faced by the urban areas such as Dehradun.


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