ND Tiwari, Uttarakhand chief minister, will not contest the February elections, with the Congress allotting his Ram Nagar seat to YS Rawat while releasing late night a list of 65 candidates for the 70 member Assembly.
The list does not include Tiwari’s bete noire, PCC chief and Rajya Sabha member Harish Rawat who had led the party to victory in 2002 but was pipped to the chief ministerial post chair by the veteran leader. And in the AICC’s unique way of providing a level playing field, the list does not include Satpal Maharaj, the other claimant for the prime post in the hill state. But his wife Anita has been accommodated in Bironkhai.
For the last 18 months in the run up to the elections, Tiwari has been a reluctant chief minister, repeatedly petitioning the Congress high command to relieve him. During this time, the octogenarian leader seemed to fluctuate in his desire for a gubernatorial assignment in Maharashtra, a berth in the Manmohan Singh cabinet and even a place in the Rajya Sabha as a step perhaps towards becoming a vice presidential or presidential nominee.
The Congress had 36 MLAs in the outgoing assembly. Though the party faces incumbency, it decided to renominate all its sitting legislators - barring Tiwari who did not want to contest and GS Rajhar - to contain further dissensions in the faction-ridden state.
Accordingly, all the ministers find a place in the list for the February 21 election. They include Indra Hirdesh (Haldwani), Preetam Singh (Chakrata-ST), Nav Bharat (Vikasnagar), Lt Gen TPS Rawat (Dhumakot), Narendra S Bhandari (Pauri) and Tilak Raj Behar (Rudrapur-Kichha).
Speaker Yashpal Arya will contest from his Mukteshwar constituency. Tiwari’s replacement in Ramnagar Yogambar Singh Rawat was elected from this segment in 2002. He later vacated the seat for Tiwari when the latter became chief minister.
Besides the five assembly constituencies, the party also has to announce its candidate for the Tehri Lok Sabha seat which fell vacant with the death of BJP’s Manvendra Shah.