Uttarakhand poll: Cong yet to name candidates

March 25 is the last day for filing nominations

Congress sources here said the names of candidates will have to be announced before Monday which is the last date for filing nominations. (PTI File Photo)

With Monday being the last date for filing nominations in Uttarakhand, all eyes are fixed on the Congress which is yet to announce its candidates for the five seats in the state going to the Lok Sabha polls on April 11.

Arch rival BJP has already announced its candidates for the five seats in Uttarakhand on Thursday out of whom two - Mala Rajya Lakshmi Shah from Tehri and Tirath Singh Rawat from Pauri have even filed their nominations.

Congress sources here said the names of candidates will have to be announced before Monday which is the last date for filing nominations.

Choosing a candidate for Haridwar is proving difficult for the party, the sources said as Harish Rawat who represented the seat in the 15th Lok Sabha before becoming CM of Uttarakhand in 2014 is not keen to contest from there this time.

BJP has renominated sitting MP and former chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank from Haridwar. So, Congress obviously needs to field a strong candidate from the seat.

Though party leaders were tight-lipped about who would contest from where sources said the names of former chief minister Harish Rawat and Pradesh Congress president Pritam Singh have almost been finalised for Nainital and Tehri respectively. BC Khanduri's son Manish is likely to be the party's candidate from Pauri and Rajya Sabha MP Pradeep Tamta from the reserved SC seat of Almora, they said.

If the names doing the rounds as probable for the seats are finally fielded by the party, it will be a clash of heavyweights in Nainital with Harish Rawat taking on Pradesh BJP president Ajay Bhatt and PCC president Pritam Singh battling it out with sitting MP Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah in Tehri.

Though Harish Rawat had lost both the seats he had contested in the last assembly polls he continues to be a seasoned and the most prominent Congress leader in the state, enjoying a connection with people at the grassroots. 

Bhatt, on the other hand, is not only the state BJP president but a former MLA from Ranikhet who was the Leader of Opposition in the state assembly when Harish Rawat was chief minister. Bhatt had also lost his seat in the last assembly polls.

Tehri may also be in for a tough battle if Pritam Singh is fielded against Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah. Singh is credited with winning the Chakrata seat despite his party faring poorly in the last assembly elections.

Though a sitting MP from the Tehri royal family which has a strong political hold in the constituency, Shah faces the challenge of overcoming an anti-incumbency factor and taking on a strong opponent in Singh.

Pauri may also be awaiting an interesting battle if Manish Khanduri, son of B C Khanduri, is fielded by the Congress against Tirath Singh Rawat, the BJP veteran's political disciple. 

Both the candidates will try to cash in on the popularity of Khanduri who opted not to contest this time. Khanduri is the most formidable leader from the state with a strong support base in his constituency.

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