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Congress faces "uphill" task in Uttaranchal

With the BJP holding four of the five seats in Uttaranchal, and its list of contestants including two Union ministers and a maharaja, the Congress worries seem to have no end.
PTI | By Press Trust of India, Dehra Dun
PUBLISHED ON APR 09, 2004 08:23 PM IST

The ruling Congress in Uttaranchal faces an uphill task in countering the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha polls.

The BJP, with a list of candidates including Union Highways Minister Major General (Retd) BC Khanduri, Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Bachi Singh Rawat and the scion of Tehri dynasty Maharaja Manvendra Shah, forms a formidable opposition, to say the least.

The party is also sitting in four of the five parliamentary seats of the state.

"Yes, it would be a challenging task before us to beat these leaders," admits state Congress spokesman Surendra Kumar.

Congress's worries also stem from the fact that except Vijay Bahuguna, son of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister HN Bahuguna (contesting for the second time from Tehri), all others are new faces at the Lok Sabha stage.

"In the list of candidates declared last evening, only Bahuguna had contested Lok Sabha elections in the past, albeit unsuccessfully," Kumar said.

But Bahuguna, who has locked horns with Shah from Tehri, is also facing opposition from his own party leaders like irrigation minister Shurvir Singh Sajwan and industrial development minister Kisho Upadhyay, who were also interested in contesting from this seat.

Deepak Kumar, a former Uttar Pradesh minister, is facing the wrath of Congress leaders in Hardwar because he is considered to be an outsider there, the sources said.

Chief Minister ND Tiwari, who was initially interested in contesting from his home constituency of Nainital, changed his mood at the eleventh hour and instead forwarded the name of close confidante KC Singh Baba from the area.

But sitting MP Mahendra Singh Pal is peeved over the move with his supporters calling for reconsideration of the official party nominee from Nainital, a seat held by Tiwari for several years.

From Almora constituency, Congress has fielded Renuka, wife of PCC Chief Harish Rawat.

Like Kumar, Renuka is also a first-timer in the Lok Sabha polls. She is pitted against Bachi Singh Rawat, who has never lost elections from Almora since 1991.

Harish Rawat, who was credited for giving a rousing victory to congress in the last assembly elections, is concentrating on Almora this time, much to the chagrin of other party candidates.

Top Congress leader Sat Pal Maharaj, who has the dubious distinction of losing to BJP  stalwart BC Khanduri for a record three times, has already backed out of the race from Pauri-Garhwal seat.

Apparently sensing defeat this time too, he has secured the party ticket for his close confidante and tourism minister TPS Rawat against Khanduri. The tourism minister is also contesting Lok Sabha elections for the first time.

Nevertheless, it was entirely a compromise formula worked out by the party high command to declare its candidates for all the five constituencies of Uttaranchal in the face of heightened infighting in the state unit of the ruling Congress.

According to the formula, those leaders who wanted to contest elections but could not get a party ticket would be suitably compensated after the elections, party sources said.

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