Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Congress ready to give BJP tough fight in Uttarakhand
BJP leaders may have been repeatedly claiming that the ruling party will retain all the five Lok Sabha seats in Uttarakhand in the general election riding the ‘Modi wave’, but the Congress doesn’t seem on a weak wicket either.
The Opposition party may give the BJP a tough fight owing to two factors - the poll arithmetic favouring it and the strong anti-incumbency prevailing against the latter, said its leaders.
The BJP, however, claims that the wave prevailing in PM Narendra Modi’s favour is much stronger this time than it was in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Its leaders attribute that to two factors - Modi’s decision to allow airstrikes on a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and a slew of pro-poor schemes he introduced after taking charge five years ago.
Consequently, out of the five Lok Sabha seats in the state, it repeated three sitting parliamentarians - Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah, Union minister of state for textiles Ajay Tamta and former chief minister Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank from Tehri, Almora and Haridwar respectively. The party has fielded two new faces---state BJP chief Ajay Bhatt and its national secretary Tirath Singh Rawat from Nainital and Pauri respectively. BJP replaced former chief ministers B C Khanduri (Pauri) and Bhagat Singh Koshiyari (Nainital) after they refused to re-contest citing their age.
The Congress has fielded former chief minister Harish Rawat (Nainital), the party’s state chief Pritam Singh (Tehri), Manish Khanduri (Pauri), Ambrish Kumar (Haridwar) and Pradeep Tamta, (Almora). Of these, Manish (son of BJP veteran BC Khanduri) joined the opposition party recently.
The BJP repeated almost all their sitting parliamentarians, which shows that the party is confident of retaining all the five Lok Sabha seats riding the Modi wave. “We are going to sweep all the five (Lok Sabha) seats because the public mood is in our party’s favour after Modiji allowed airstrikes on a terrorist training camp in Pakistan,” said Munna Singh Chauhan, the spokesperson for the BJP’s state unit. “Besides, the people are very happy with him (Modi) owing to a slew of pro-poor schemes the NDA government implemented in the country.”
The BJP may be sure about its chances, but the electoral arithmetic and the anti-incumbency seem to stand against it. Take, for instance, Haridwar, where the BJP’s Nishank is pitted against Congress’s Ambrish Kumar. “The Other Backward Classes and Muslims who form 55% of the total voters will vote for our party en bloc as they are unhappy with the ruling party on issues like development,” said MD Joshi, Congress chief spokesperson.
In Tehri, where BJP’s Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah will lock horns with Congress state chief Pritam Singh, Gopal Mani an Independent candidate may cut into the ruling party’s vote bank. The reason is that he is identified more with the BJP as his discourses are mostly centred on issues such as cow protection and conservation of the Ganga.
In Pauri, Congress candidate Manish, son of sitting parliamentarian and BJP veteran Khanduri, is likely to cut into the ruling party’s vote bank. In Nainital, state BJP chief Bhatt is being perceived as a weak candidate compared to his rival, Congress’s Harish Rawat.
Joshi said the BJP was facing double anti-incumbency against its governments both in state and at Centre as they have nothing to show in terms of delivery.
However, state BJP spokesperson said the party had an upper hand also because the high profile infrastructure projects like the Rs12,000 crore Chardham all-weather road project and the Rishikesh-Karnprayag rail project were sanctioned by the Modi government.