For Uttarakhand CMs, it's a question of prestige

Six chief ministers, who ruled Uttarakhand at various points of time over the last 14 years since its inception, loom large over the tiny state this election season, as they fight to engrave their primacy on state politics.

The wife of the incumbent chief minister, son of a former Congress chief minister and three former BJP chief ministers are in the fray, while an elderly former chief minister is sulking after the Congress denied him a seat. Uttarakhand’s first chief minister Nityanand Swami is no more.

In most states, former chief ministers are in the running; for instance, in Karnataka, former prime minister H D Deve Gowda and five former chief ministers are vying for power. However, the case is different in this hill state where all those who occupied the seat have a big role to play.

It is a do-or-die battle for the Congress as the result could have a bearing on the continuance of the incumbent Congress government led by Harish Rawat, who took over the government from party colleague Vijay Bahuguna after a bitter war.

Same is the case for former BJP chief ministers Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, B C Khanduri and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who are contesting this time. A defeat would put these leaders at the risk of losing the handle to power in the state.

“It is a really challenging and interesting election for all these leaders. In a way, this election determines the future course of politics in Uttarakhand. It would be more important for Rawat than anyone else, as a defeat would mean danger to his government,” Jaisingh Rawat, a writer-based in Dehradun and former journalist, told Deccan Herald.

Holding the ground appears to be a tough task for battle-hardened Rawat, sitting MP from Hardwar, as people still resent the poor handling of rehabilitation of flood victims during Bahuguna’s time, the factional fight and desertion of leaders like sitting MP Satpal Maharaj.

In any case, Hardwar will witness the mother of all battles as Rawat’s wife Renuka takes on Nishank, who had to resign as chief minister in 2011 following allegations of corruption.

For Bahuguna, it will be a fight for survival as he insisted on fielding his son Saket from Tehri Garhwal where he had tasted defeat in a bypoll 18 months ago. The junior Bahuguna is once again facing BJP’s Mala Rajya Lakshmi.

The BJP is upbeat about its prospects and feels that its high-profile candidates give an impression of a battle-ready team.

This poll will be one of the most important for Khanduri, a retired Major General, as he had lost from Kotdwar in the 2012 Assembly elections, with the party losing out too. Getting defeated this time could also mean that his party colleagues, Nishank and Koshiyari, get a better say in state party affairs.

Koshiyari, a rival of Khanduri in the party, is pitted against sitting Congress MP K C Singh Baba, who won with a margin of 88,412 votes, from the Nainital-Uddhamsingh Nagar seat.

Among the former chief ministers, Tewari is the only one who has no role to play as the Congress denied his claim for candidacy as well as that of Rohit, whom he accepted as his son recently. Tewari said last Wednesday that he felt cheated after the kind of treatment meted out to him by a “party he served for decades like a loyal soldier”.

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