Congress nominee in Rishikesh counts on rebellion within BJP

Congress nominee in Rishikesh counts on rebellion within BJP

Congress leader Rajpal Kharola is testing the electoral waters in the spiritual town of Rishikesh along the Ganga once again.

He lost out to Premchand Agarwal of the BJP in 2012 by a margin of 6,000 votes. Kharola, considered to be close to Rahul Gandhi, is pinning his hopes on rebellion in the BJP ranks.

Ironically, a rebellion in his own party was the cause of his defeat in the previous polls. This time, Sandeep Gupta, a local BJP aspirant who was denied the party ticket, has put his hat in the ring as an Independent.

DH accompanied Kharola on the campaign trail. Excerpts from an interview to Sagar Kulkarni.

How bright are your chances of victory in this Assembly election?

In the previous elections, I was pitted against five rebels from the Congress ranks. Local Congress strongmen Jai Singh Rawat, Harshvardhan Singh and Deep Sharma were against me. They were instigated by the BJP.

All these have returned to the party-fold and were with me when I filed the nomination papers. This time around, the rebellion is in the ranks of the BJP. I had not stopped working after my defeat in the previous polls. My work will definitely see me through.

But Agarwal is a two-term legislator known for his work.

In the past 10 years, this person could not even build a primary school. What can he talk about development? People in Rishikesh talk about incomplete works and commission being paid for the use of MLA Local Area Development Fund. He did not pursue any development work to its completion.

How do you see the BJP as an opponent?

Today, the BJP is following the same path they used to criticise the Congress for. They accused us of dynasty politics; today it is the BJP which has fielded candidates from the same family. Chief Minister Harish Rawat did not give tickets to his son or daughter.

They accused us of corruption, but last year they engaged in horse-trading to topple our government. If the BJP believed in democracy, they should have respected the people’s mandate and waited for their turn to defeat us in elections.

How many seats will the Congress win in the elections?

People have seen the Modi government. There is a strong undercurrent on demonetisation. People are quiet because they fear being dubbed corrupt. The number of soldiers martyred on the borders is increasing and there is a feeling of insecurity.

Modi is only good at giving speeches and making people believe ‘acche din’ are here. The people have made up their mind to give a clear mandate.

As things stand today, I see the Congress winning more than 40 seats (in the 70-member Assembly).

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