Rahul Singh Shekhawat | Apr 11, 2019 | 6 min read
Uncertainty looms over the five seats in the hilly state of Uttarakhand
Dehradun: The voting for all the five Lok Sabha (LS) seats of Uttarakhand was held in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections on April 11. As per Chief Electoral Officer Saujanya, the state saw a voter turnout of 57.75 percent (approx) this time, which is less than the 2014 election's 62.15 percent. Apart from a few incidents of technical problems in EVMs, the polling in entire Uttarakhand went peacefully.
52 candidates contested from the five seats in the state but the main fight is between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress in all of the state’s seats. With respect to sheer numbers, Uttarakhand may be considered a small state but it witnesses many high profile clashes between leaders. This year the state party chiefs of Congress and BJP, two former Chief Ministers (CM), a Union minister, a member of the royal family and the son of a former CM contested in the elections. In the last election, BJP had managed a clean sweep but this time it looks a little more uncertain.
The Nainital-Udhamsingh Nagar seat is slated to be the state’s ‘hot seat’, where the contest is between two-term CM and former Union Minister Harish Rawat and BJP’s state chief Ajay Bhatt. Although there are a total of seven candidates contesting for this seat, the battle comes down to the heavyweights of Congress and BJP. Traditionally, this seat has belonged to Congress’ but the current political scenario suggest that it’s going to be a very closely contested seat. Contesting his maiden LS poll was BJP's Bhatt, who has tasted defeat in the 2017 assembly poll. On the contrary, Congress’ Rawat has been the MP from Almora (thrice) and once from Haridwar, but it is his first stint from Nainital. Nainital has been represented by former Union ministers N D Tiwari and K C Pant.
The constituency of Almora witnessed a Tamta versus Tamta contest. BJP's candidate was Union Minister of State, Ajay Tamta, Congress had nominated Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Tamta. Although totally six other candidates are also in the fray, it seems like a straight fight between the BJP and Congress. Experts say that Ajay Tamta will struggle to retain his seat from Almora.
In Haridwar, BJP's sitting-MP and former CM Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank took on Congress' Ambrish Kumar, a former MLA. There are a total of 15 candidates who contested from the seat, including BSP's Dr Antriksh Saini. Haridwar has been unkind to sitting-MPs in the past as no MP could win a consecutive term from this seat since the formation of the state which makes it a little challenging for Nishank.
In Tehri-Garhwal, BJP's sitting-MP Maharani Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah faced Uttarakhand PCC’s chief Pritam Singh who is a five-time MLA and a former minister too. Independent candidate Gopal Mani is capable of denting Maharani’s hopes too because of his RSS background. Maharani Laxmi, hails from Tehri's royal family who have bagged 10 elections and a by-election in the past.
Garhwal also witnessed a battle of titans where BJP's former CM Major General (retired) B.C. Khanduri's son Manish Khanduri took on former BJP chief Tirath Singh Rawat. Although nine candidates are there have contested for this seat, but it seems like it will boil down to a straight fight between former CM's son Manish from Congress and his so-called political heir Tirath from BJP. B C Khanduri has been unbeaten, except for once, in this seat since 1991 LS polls. Rumours suggest that Manish switched boats to Congress as he was removed from the post of chairman of the Parliament's defence committee.
Apart from the mood of the country, there has always been a history of big political upheaval in the state. It is common for the ruling party in the state to lose in the LS polls. In 2004, Congress had ND Tiwari government in the state, but BJP occupied the Lok Sabha. In 2009 history repeated itself as BJP government was in power in the state, but the Congress swept cleanly in the Lok Sabha elections. It was the same in 2014 also as Congress was in power in the state but BJP managed a clean sweep in the Lok Sabha elections. Everyone is waiting to see if the history repeats itself again on May 23 as BJP won 57 seats in the 60-member assembly, in 2017.
Harish Rawat, Congress' candidate from Nainital, said, “Voters have come out for a change not only in Uttarakhand but also the entire nation. The enthusiasm of the voters to reach the polling booth is a clear indication of the departure of Modi's government. Rahul Gandhi is leading the wave of change in the whole country. Our workers have reached out to the people in very less time. On the basis of the response that we received from the voters, I can say that not only in Nainital but also the rest of the state's four seats will be bagged by Congress soldiers only.”
Ajay Bhatt, BJP's state chief and candidate from Nainital, claimed that they are going to win all the five seats in Uttarakhand with a bigger margin than they had achieved in 2014. “The whole state wants to see Narendra Modi as the PM again. Nobody is bothered about the candidates as voters are just looking at ‘lotus’ symbol and Modi ji. The people are engulfed by the storm and people are chanting ‘Modi! Modi!’. Everyone is sure that the country can be safe and strong in his leadership only.”
Pritam Singh, Congress's state chief and candidate from Tehri-Garhwal said, “I went to many polling booths during the voting and found huge support for Congress. People have made up their minds and want to defeat the ruling BJP. Therefore, Congress will not only win in Tehri but also bag all the five seats from the state”.
Pic 1-2 Harish Rawat (Cong) Pic 3-4 Ajay Bhatt (BJP) Pic 5-6 Ajay Tamta (BJP) Pic 7-8 Pradip Tamta(Cong) Pic 9 Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank(BJP) Pic 10 Ambrish Kumar(Cong) Pic 11 Maharani Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah(BJP) Pic 12-13 Pritam Singh (Cong) Pic 14 Tirath Singh Rawat (BJP) Pic 15-16 Manish Khanduri (Cong)
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