Eyes on 9 Cong Rebels as Rawat Fights his Big Battle
Campaigning ends ahead of polling in 69 assembly constituencies; PM Modi holds four rallies in the state; Rahul Gandhi slams BJP in Hardwar for giving tickets to turncoats
Dehradun: Nine assembly seats where the BJP has fielded Congress rebels, who revolted against chief minister Harish Rawat at the time of trust vote and left the party, are likely to be in the spotlight in the upcoming assembly elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has held four rallies in the state ahead of the February 15 election and targeted Rawat on the issue of corruption in the state, besides highlighting the Centre’s demonetisation drive and surgical strike across the line of control in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Campaigning ended on Monday evening, ahead of polling in 69 assembly constituencies on Wednesday. The Election Commission of India has deferred the poll in Karnaprayag due to the death of BSP candidate Kuldeep Singh Kanwasi in a road accident. About 627 candidates are trying their luck to enter the state assembly this poll.
Prime Minister Modi in his rallies focused specially on serving and retired army personnel who have strong presence in the state. His de- cision to hold a rally in Pithoragarh reflects his aim to strengthen the party in the hill areas.
BJP’s national president Amit Shah addressed several election meetings in Uttarakhand, as did Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and Dharmendra Pradhan.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi slammed the BJP during his roadshow in Hardwar on Sunday for giving tickets to the turncoats. Chief Minister Rawat has already spent a lot of time campaigning against these candidates.
This election is being seen as the most important battle for Rawat in view of his projection as CM candidate. Congress is perhaps presenting a leader as its CM face for the first time in the state.
Apart from the hill region, Rawat has attempted to test his popularity in other regions as well given his decision to contest from two seats – Kichha (Udham Singh Nagar) and Hardwar (rural). While Kichha is in Terai region, Hardwar (rural) is in plains. Rawat’s decision to select these two seats was apparently prompted by his party’s poor performance in these seats in the 2012 as- sembly polls. Hardwar and Udham Singh Nagar districts send 20 MLAs to the 70-member state assembly.
Gandhi covered about 11 constituencies during his 75-km long roadshow in Hardwar district.
The upcoming election is expected to test Rawat especially in Kedar valley in view of his claim for undertaking rehabilitation and reconstruction after the area faced maximum impact of the 2013 floods and landslides.
While the state finance minister and Congress leader Indira Hridyesh is in the fray in Haldwani seat, speaker of the state assembly Govind Singh Kunjwal is facing a tough battle against BJP nominee Subhash Pandey. Kunjwal is considered to be close to the CM.
Health minister Surendra Singh Negi is trying his luck to enter the state assembly from Kotdwar seat for the second consecutive term. Negi had defeated former CM BC Khanduri in the previous polls. This time, however, BJP has fielded Harak Singh Rawat, who was the face of the anti-Harish Rawat camp in the recent political crisis in the state. Harak Singh Rawat, who has been shifted from Karnprayag to Kotdwar, is considered close to former CM Vijay Bahuguna. The case is much the same in Narendra Nagar seat, where BJP’s nominee is Subodh Uniyal, known as a supporter of former CM Vijay Bahuguna. Congress has fielded a new face, Himanshu Bijlwan. Uniyal’s problem is that Om Gopal Rawat has revolted against his erstwhile party BJP and continues to remain in the fray. Om Gopal, who was the BJP nominee against Uniyal in the 2012 assembly polls, is expected to give a tough challenge to BJP nominee Uniyal this time. While former Union minister and BJP leader Satpal Maharaj is trying to enter the state assembly from Chaubattakhal seat in Pauri district, former CM Khanduri’s daughter Ritu Khanduri is in the fray in Yamkeshwar seat. Congress has fielded a turncoat Shailendra Rawat against Ritu. Shailendra was in BJP earlier. BJP has denied a ticket to its former state president Tirath Singh Rawat to field Satpal Maharaj from Chaubattakhal seat. Tirath, who was earlier said to be sulking after being denied a ticket, has been elevated as national secretary of the BJP now.
Besides the BJP and Congress, BSP will also get to test its popularity, particularly among the voters of hill areas.
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