With the numbers stacked heavily in favour of Congress, the BJP on Monday backed out from the race for the lone Rajya Sabha seat from Uttarakhand, giving a walkover to the ruling party nominee.
Manorama Dobariyal Sharma, 58, was the only candidate to file nominations for the elections scheduled for November 20, official sources said.
However, the BJP waited till the last minute to withdraw its official choice -- state general secretary Naresh Bansal, who was ready with his nomination papers before the party threw in the towel.
“We chose not to stake a formal claim to the RS seat because we didn’t have the numbers in our favour,” state BJP president Tirath Singh Rawat said in a hurriedly-called press conference.
The BJP has just 28 legislators in the 70-member House.
The BJP president, however, claimed that the seven-member Progressive Democratic Front (PDF), a Congress ally, was in touch with the party.
Chief minister Harish Rawat too said the Congress had the support of the PDF MLAs besides 42 of its own legislators.
“I express my gratitude to them (BJP) that they upheld the political traditions…It is good that they also read the writings on the wall,” he said.
Despite talks of angst in the camp of former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, his close aide and Uttarkashi MLA Vijaypal Sajwan accompanied Sharma and Rawat to the assembly.
Sharma too said that all the Congress MLAs were fully behind her.
"There is no resentment against my candidature in the Congress. This is evident from the names who seconded my candidature in the nomination papers,” she said.
Rawat said Sharma’s nomination was another step by the party in empowering women as she will be the first woman Rajya Sabha member from the state.
A former mayor of Dehradun, Sharma had earlier served as AICC women cell general secretary.
BJP’s Tirath Singh also said the party’s decision to withdraw from the race was influenced by the Congress fielding Sharma, “because our party has always stood for women empowerment”.
Opposition leader Ajay Bhatt said the BJP reciprocated the Congress’ earlier gestures “when they gave us walkover for the RS seat twice in the past when they didn’t have majority.”