BJP candidate list for Lok Sabha election in Uttarakhand marks rise of a new order, passing of old guard

Rahul Singh Shekhawat | Mar 22, 2019 | 6 min read


Lok Sabha elections: BJP candidate list in Uttarakhand marks the rise of a new order

For the first time, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is jumping into the poll battle without its two strongest pillars in Uttarakhand without whom one couldn’t think of the party’s state leadership so far.

Marking the passing of the old guard and the arrival of a new order in the Himalayan state, the BJP has not given tickets to its two sitting MPs and former chief ministers -- Maj Gen (Retd.) Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri and Bhagat Singh Koshyari -- in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

However, another former CM, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, also a sitting MP, has been fielded again from the Haridwar constituency. The party has also shown trust in the leadership of Ajay Tamta, Union minister of state for textiles, by fielding him from Almora, and royal family's Maharani Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah from Tehri constituency.

BJP state president Ajay Bhatt has been nominated as Koshyari’s replacement in the prestigious Nainital seat. For Khanduri’s seat in Pauri constituency, BJP national secretary Tirath Singh Rawat is the chosen one.

It is noticeable that Khanduri had been representing Pauri since the 1991 Lok Sabha polls and the only election he lost was in 1996 when Satpal Maharaj defeated him on an All India Indira Congress (Tiwari) ticket. The party has since then been merged with the Congress while Maharaj has joined the BJP.

Khanduri was also inducted in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee's cabinet as surface transport minister and went on to became Uttarakhand’s chief minister twice. In spite of the consecutive victories and a clean image, Khanduri didn’t find a place in the Modi government. He was also removed from the chairmanship of a parliamentary standing committee last year. And now his son, Manish Khanduri, has joined the Congress. It is being assumed that Manish’s switch in loyalty is related to the treatment given to his father in the BJP.

Refuting this, Khanduri says he had told the party high command that he doesn’t want contest elections due to health issues. “Of course, I am with the BJP right now and whatever duty is given to me, I will do it. As far as my son's entry in the Congress is concerned, he is free to take the decision for his future as per his own discretion. It is not an unusual thing as my mother also belonged to the Congress but I joined the BJP. It shouldn't be taken as unhappiness at all, as it is being highlighted,” he reasons.

Besides being with the BJP, he says he is a father, too, and if any confrontation arises, he will think of it.

Koshyari, on the other hand, is a sitting MP from Nainital and was the chief minister in the interim government formed after the formation of the state in 2000. He has served as the party's state president twice and has also been the leader of the opposition. Under Koshyari's presidentship, the BJP made a government in Uttarakhand in 2007 but Khanduri was nominated the chief minister. Subsequently, he was sent to the Rajya Sabha. Koshyari contested his maiden Lok Sabha poll in 2014 and registered a landslide victory of over 2.5 lakh margin of votes, in Nainital constituency. Like Khanduri, Koshyari also was not inducted into Modi's cabinet.

“I had told the high command two-and-a-half years ago that I will not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha poll again. I am always fond of encouraging the youth but it does not mean that seniors should not contest elections further. It was my personal desire to stop fighting elections without any resentment. All these rumours are worthless that I am angry with not being given a ministry. The party made me the state chief, the CM, MP in both the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha. How can I be angry?” Koshyari says.

Amongst the three ex-CMs, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank is the only sitting MP (Haridwar) who has been repeated but history shows no sitting MP gets a second chance from this constituency. Confident of changing this trend, Nishank says, “PM Modi's blessings has always been with me. I am thankful to the national leadership that fielded me again in Haridwar constituency.”

In Almora, Ajay Tamta has been fielded once again despite complaints on his performance. The BJP seems to have had little choice in the state’s only reserved constituency.

Tirath Singh Rawat, who left his seat for Satpal Maharaj in the 2017 Assembly elections, is now going to contest the Lok Sabha elections for the first time. It is a great challenge for him to retain Khanduri's unbeaten seat Pauri. Interestingly, he has been very close to Khanduri whose son is now the rival of the former.

Maharani Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah, a two-time MP, has got the ticket again in Tehri, where candidates from the royal family have registered victories in nine general elections and a by-election. Although a segment of the party was against her for “underperformance” but keeping all the speculations aside, the BJP high command fielded her again in Tehri, keeping in mind the dominance of the royal family in the constituency. Even ex-CM Vijay Bahuguna, former MP of Tehri, was in the queue.

Dropping Koshyari, BJP's state chief and former minister Ajay Bhatt, who lost the Assembly elections from Ranikhet in 2017, has been fielded in Nainital. Bhatt is contesting his maiden Lok Sabha election. Congress has dominated Nanital most of the time in the hustings.

“There is no reality in the rumours that Khanduri ji and Koshyari ji are unhappy. Both the leaders are pillars of the BJP in Uttarakhand. Under their guidance, we have grown up as a leader. There shouldn't be any doubt in them standing with us to secure a clean sweep again in Uttarakhand,” Bhatt claimed.

Before the advent of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in national politics, BJP’s politics was centred around Khanduri and Koshyari ever since the state of Uttarakhand was raised in November 2000. The identity of the party in the state was correlated to their names.

After becoming the chief minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal had become a small stakeholder too, in between the arch rivalry of both.

But under the leadership of Narendra Modi, the results of 2014 Lok Sabha elections marked the dawn of a new political era in Uttarakhand. In spite of a clean sweep with three ex-CMs in the Lok Sabha, none of them was inducted in Modi's cabinet.

Surendra Singh Arya, a political commentator, says except the candidature of Maharani Shah, BJP’s high command gave priority to its own cadre from the other four constituencies. After side-lining Khanduri and Koshyari, it is a clear sign of the second line of command coming to the fore.

The victory of the new crop will, however, depend on the strategy and unity of the party.

Pic- 1 Ajay Bhatt (Credit: Rahul Singh Shekhawat)

Pic-2 B C Khanduri (Facebook)

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