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Internal squabbles hit Uttarakhand politics

Even before the battle lines are being drawn in Uttarakhand for the coming Lok Sabha polls, internal squabbles in the camps of two main rivals (the Congress Party and the Bhartiya Janata Party or BJP) have come to fore with some of the key leaders even refusing to contest.

Other political parties, including Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, (UKD), which have a marginal presence in the sub-Himalayan State, are also riddled with intra-party strife.

Thus, almost all the parties entering the Poll One fray are busy fighting on two fronts – within their own ranks and outside.

However, at the time of writing this article, the real fight was expected to be between the Congress and BJP, with participation of minor parties treated as customary. Even rank outsider Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) cannot be seen as making a big dent in the vote banks.

It is also true that the two main rivals are desperately trying to overcome the infighting, ahead of the poll date (May 7).

Bahuguna deserts

Amidst strong rumours that he was planning to join the ‘Saffron Party’ (BJP), senior Congress Leader and former Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna is understood to have gone to Singapore, purportedly for the medical treatment of his wife. Replaced by the current Chief Minister Harish Rawat, he has therefore refused to accede to the wish of his Party High Command to contest from the Tehri Constituency.

Even as BJP candidates are busy campaigning door-to-door in the 13 districts of Uttarakhand, the Congress Party continues to grope in the dark about its choice of candidates in the ensuing election.

The State Unit of the Congress Party, greatly perplexed after the sitting MP and Senior Leader Satpal Maharaj crossed over the BJP some time ago, is keen that Mr Bahuguna should lead its charge not only in Tehri but also in other four constituencies. The Party is now totally indecisive about its candidates from Hardwar and Tehri, even though it is inclined to field the incumbents.

Rebels pacified

Last fortnight, BJP succeeded in pacifying some rebels like former Almora MP Bachhi Singh Rawat and his followers. The Saffron Party has also taken a lead in fielding its candidates some time ago, even as Congress was dithering over its choice.

Three former BJP Chief Ministers, including retired Major General B C Khanduri, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Bhagat Singh Koshyari are contesting respectively from Pauri, Hardwar and Nainital.

Failure of the Congress to declare names of its candidates is likely to cost the Party dearly, with its indecisiveness being debated widely throughout Uttarakhand. Since the election dates were announced, party bigwigs have been holding meetings in Dehra Dun and New Delhi to find suitable candidates for the polls.

Tiwari waiting

Interestingly, former Congress stalwart, Union minister and Andhra Governor N D Tiwari is also understood to be keen on contesting from Nainital or securing a Congress ticket for his son Shekhar. Although the Congress has marginalised him, the septuagenarian is presently touring the Nainital constituency in the Kumoun region with his son, hoping for a green signal from the Party High Command.

But he is not likely to succeed.

Rajendra Prasad Nailwal is a retired Special Principal Correspondent of the Times of India. He now lives in Dehra Dun.

File picture of N D Tiwari (by Narendra Bedekar), taken in Auckland on December 19, 2006

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