Uttarakhand Raksha Morcha (URM), a regional political outfit which was launched four months back, is likely to make a dent into the votebanks of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttarakhand.
Founded by former BJP MP Lt Gen (retd) TPS Rawat, the party claims to enjoy the support base among ex-soldiers and their families in the state.
With an organisational team of ex-army officers and para-military officers, URM is hopeful of winning at least seven seats in the state. The known faces in the party include faujis such as Brig (retd) Jagmohan Rawat and Brig (retd) Raju Rawat of Garhwal Rifles and General (retd) Shailendra Raj Bahuguna of Kumaon Regiment, Bahuguna also happens to be a close relative of chief minister Maj Gen (retd) BC Khanduri.
SS Kothiyal, president of para military forces organisation, is also part of the URM. As per a rough estimate, nearly 40% of the population of the hill state comprises of soldiers, former army men, their families and service voters. Traditionally, they have been associated with the BJP. The voting trend of 2007 assembly poll suggests majority of the service voters supported the BJP. URM claims the trend will change this time round and they will instead vote for their party.
“Many ex-soldiers have their roots in Garhwal Rifles or Kumaon Regiment. Moreover there are large numbers of ex-para military personnel in state,” said Rawat. “Since URM is the party of soldiers with a clear vision of development of the state, we are banking on their support,” he added.
The outfit has so far announced list of 46 candidates though it plans to contest 60 seats out of 70 assembly segments. 8 ex-soldiers and several dissidents from the BJP and the Congress figure in the list.
“We are creating a base among the faujis. National political parties have used ex-soldiers. By 2017, URM will emerge as major political force,” claimed PC Thapliyal, spokesperson URM.
Apart from ex-soldiers as candidates, former minister and sitting BJP MLA Kedar Singh Phonia is contesting as URM candidate from Badrinath seat. URM has also succeeded in fielding Virendra Singh Pal of Askot royal family from Dharchula.
BJP, meanwhile, says it is not miffed with the URM moves. “BJP has ex-soldier Maj Gen (retd) Khanduri as the CM. URM is not in a position to hurt us,” underlines Col (retd) CP Nautiyal, head of BJP ex soldiers cell.
Interestingly, the Congress thinks otherwise. It admits that not only BJP but also the Congress will also loose votes. “Ex-soldiers had also voted for us but ironically party has not given a single seat to them. Why will they vote for the Congress,” asks Captain (retd) Balbir Rawat, president ex-soldier’s cell of the Congress.
Nevertheless, political analysts believe that URM will make contest triangular in as many as 25 segments in state. They say the little difference in votes will affect the final outcome.
In the last assembly polls, 6 candidates won within less than 530 votes and in another 8 seats the winning margin was within 1800 votes. “Candidates of national parties must consider the fact that the presence of the URM will ensure that its not going to be a cake walk for them,” asserted Jay Singh Rawat, a political commentator.