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

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - San­jay.Singh2@ times­group.com

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.

ZAHID

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