DEHRADUN: A heady mix of desertions, dissentions, deceit and rebellion – election in the hill state has the making of a Shakespearean drama. While the two key players – BJP and Congress – are firing on all cylinders with just a day left for polls, both are striving equally hard to come to grip with rebels who may cast a shadow on their respective prospects.
According to political scientists, the poll dynamics this time have become very complex thanks to an astronomical number of rebels on both sides. They have come down heavily on rebels expelling them in hoards but still facing a stiff challenge from these dissenters fighting as independent candidates on a number of seats across the state.
Ignoring the opinion of the party’s state leadership, BJP took a lead in fielding 13 Congress turncoats, nine of whom switched loyalty to the BJP along with former chief minister Vijay Bahuguna in May last year as they were disqualified from the Assembly under the anti-defection law for raising a banner of revolt against CM Harish Rawat.
Party sources say that senior state leaders like Bhagat Singh Koshiary, Major General (retd) BC Khanduri and Ramesh Pokhriyal had cautioned the central leadership about a revolt by party cadre if ‘outsiders’ were preferred over them. “There are strong opposing forces within the party who are putting their might to ensure defeat of Congress turncoats contesting on BJP tickets,” says a political commentator based in Dehradun.
To add to the saffron party’s woes, there are at least 17-18 rebel candidates, including some sitting MLAs of BJP, who are contesting as independents after being denied tickets from their traditional constituencies like Yumkeshwar, Devprayag, Dhanulti Ranikhet, Rishikesh, Kashipur, Kaladungi, Uttarkashi, Yumnotri, Tehri, Khatima, giving sleepless nights to the party leadership as they still hold sway in their bastions.
In Chaubattakhal, from where ex-Congressman Satpal Maharaj is contesting on a BJP ticket and being projected as a potential CM candidate, Kavindra Ishtwal is contesting as an independent after being ignored by the party. Party’s sitting MLA Tirath Singh Rawat was also miffed after being ignored by party and was ready to fight as an independent. He was later pacified with a post of national secretary in the party organisation. Similarly, other Congress leaders contesting on BJP tickets -- Harak Singh Rawat in Kotdwar and Rekha Arya in Someshwar are facing stiff resistance from the BJP cadre.
The equations in Yumkeshwar are equally complex. The seat is grabbing attention as the BJP has fielded Major General BC Khanduri’s daughter Ritu Khanduri from here. She is facing Shailendra Singh Rawat, an ex-BJP MLA from Kotdwar. Shailendra rebelled against the saffron party as it fielded former Congress leader Harak Singh Rawat on his Kotdwar seat and he promptly joined Congress to get a ticket from Yamkeshwar to take on Khanduri’s daughter.
Meanwhile, the Congress has fielded seven BJP and two BSP rebels. Giving tickets to "outsiders" has not gone down well with the grassroots leaders of Congress as well. Of the 70 assembly seats, nearly 50 rebel candidates are contesting to challenge the party choice.
In such a complex scenario, if Independents win seven or eight seats, they are likely to hold the key to government formation if any of the two major parties remain short of the magic number of 36.
“Even the role of BSP as kingmaker cannot be ruled out if the party, which is contesting on 68 of 70 seats manages to touch the double-digit in the hill state,” says an expert on Dalit politics in the state. The BSP made its electoral debut in Uttarakhand in 2002, contesting 68 seats and winning seven seats with a vote share of 11.2%. In 2012, though it could win only three seats but its vote share increased to 12.28 per cent. The party had backed Rawat government when it was in constitutional crisis last year.