It's Bahugunas vs royals in Tehri Garhwal

It's Bahugunas vs royals in Tehri Garhwal

It's Bahugunas vs royals in Tehri Garhwal

Former Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna achieved a rare feat in 2007 when he dethroned the Kanak Pal royals in a battle of ballots in Tehri Garhwal, which they otherwise won whenever they contested, except once four decades ago.

Will his son Saket be able to repeat his father's feat this time, though he faltered in the first attempt in a 2012 by-poll here?

The BJP and Congress have nominated their 2012 candidates, the winner Mala Rajyalakshmi and Saket respectively.

The Bahugunas are hoping to cash in on “poor performance” of sitting BJP parliamentarian Mala, while the royals will focus on the senior Bahuguna’s “misgovernance”.

Also in the fray is Aam Aadmi Party candidate Anoop Nautiyal, former health advisor to then chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.

There is a murmur of dissent in the Congress camp on the choice of candidate as Saket had lost the by-polls, necessitated by his father's resignation as MP to assume the post of the chief minister. This is the same constituency where senior Bahuguna won a by-poll in 2007 defeating Mala’s husband, Manujvendra Shah, the second time a royal lost the polls in this constituency after the 1971 debacle of Maharaja Manvendra Shah.

The royal represented the constituency in 1951 as an independent, 1957 to 1971 as a Congress nominee, and then from 1991 to 2007 as a BJP candidate.

After the Maharaja's shocking defeat, the royals took a 20-year break only to return in 1991 on a BJP ticket.

Manvendra’s death in 2007 necessitated a by-poll in which the senior Bahuguna won, a feat he achieved again in the 2009 polls.

But the 2012 by-polls provided an opportunity for Mala to avenge her husband’s defeat. She went on to defeat Saket to become the first woman MP from the hillstate, which came into being in 2000.

This time, the senior Bahuguna was asked by the Congress high command to contest, but he refused and instead managed to get a ticket for his 40-year-old lawyer-son, who quit his job in a leading business house two years ago to enter politics.

The going appears to be tough for the Bahugunas and the opposition is latching on to the alleged mismanagement of last year’s flood.

“The government was sleeping. It did not do anything. The NGOs managed to do something. If there were no NGOs, it would have been tough for the people,” Prakash Lall, a resident of Devli Brahmgram, said.

Devli Brahmgram, dubbed a village of widows as husbands of at least 34 women who used to carry out various chores at the Kedarnath shrine were killed in last year's flood, was adopted by a Delhi-based NGO Sulabh International, headed by Bindeshwar Pathak, last year.

The senior Bahuguna is doing everything in his capacity to ensure his son's victory, which is necessary to maintain his political relevance in the state, and even invoked his late father H N Bahuguna’s name, a towering political figure of his times.

“My family is emotionally attached with the people of Uttarakhand and I have myself served you all, first as an MP and later as the chief minister. Saket is an able and upright young man, who will become a strong voice for Uttarakhand in the Lok Sabha,” he said in a signed appeal being circulated in the constituency.

The BJP is also upbeat about their prospects. Leader of the Opposition Ajay Bhatt told Deccan Herald, “There is a contest, but there will be no problem for the Maharani.”