Rebel candidates have emerged as a cause of concern for both the parties.
New Delhi: Chief minister Harish Rawat-led Congress and Modi-Shah-led BJP is all set to witness another straight contest in Uttarakhand on Wednesday when 69 of the total 70 Assembly constituencies will go to polls.
On Karanprayag seat, polling has been deferred due to the death of a BSP candidate. Last time, the Congress managed to win just one seat more than the BJP (31) and later wooed independents and Uttarakhand Kranti Dal to form the government in the hill state. Mayawati-led BSP also has some influence on a few constituencies, mostly in the terai region.
While most of the opinion polls have predicted victory for the BJP, the Congress seems to be giving it a tough fight on most seats.
Rebel candidates have emerged as a cause of concern for both the parties. Nine candidates who switched their sides from Congress to the BJP will try their luck with the saffron party. In all, 11 Congress leaders, including Mr Rawat’s predecessor Vijay Bahuguna, joined the saffron fold after going against the Congress government’s budget, which was followed by the much-criticised decision of the Centre to impose the President’s Rule for a brief period. Later, a few more Congress leaders had joined the saffron fold.
Unlike last elections, the BJP did not project its chief ministerial candidate in “Devbhoomi” this time as most of its prominent faces are former chief ministers — B.C. Khanduri, B.S. Koshiyari and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank — who are MPs. The party leadership is currently not in favour of sending them back at the state-level politics. During the last elections, the BJP had projected Mr Khanduri as its CM candidate on a slogan “Khanduri hai zaroori”. But Mr Khanduri, himelf, lost to a party rebel.
Factionalism has always been a worry for the BJP, which also was a major reason for its dismal performance during the last Assembly elections. The Congress is also dealing with factionalism and dissension, and was forced to put a united face after party high command intervened. Despite corruption charges by the BJP, Mr Rawat has a strong support base in the hilly terrains where many development initiatives, including laying of roads, providing potable water, medical facilities, were initiated. Rebels and disgruntled leaders could dent the party’s poll prospects.
During the last elections, winning margin on many constituencies was less than 2,000 and perhaps sensing that it could happen again, both the BJP and Congress leadership led an aggressive campagin. While development and nationalism was BJP’s main theme during campaigning, Congress highlighted the development work undertaken by Mr Harish Rawat as well as the BJP and central government’s “attempts” to destablise the democratically elected government in the state.
Key candidates in the state include Mr Harish Rawat, who is contesting from two assembly seats-Hardware(rural) and Koch, Vijay Bahuguna’s son Saurabh from Sitarganj on a BJP ticket, Congress rebel and BJP candidate Harak Singh Rawat from Kotdwar, former BJP CM B C Khanduri’s daughter Rita from Yamkeshwar and former PCC chief and BJP candidate Yashpal Arya from Bajpur.