It is on the basis of the image of B C Khanduri that the BJP hopes to do well in the Uttarakhand Assembly elections.
But in an irony of sorts,for the fight for the Kotdwar seat from where Khanduri is contesting,he is relying on a face other than his own.
Seen prominently with the BJP chief ministerial candidate is BJP’s sitting MLA from this constituency Shailendra Singh Rawat.
The senior leader’s dependence on Rawat could have partly to do with his hectic campaigning for other party candidates across the state,but also due to Congress’ efforts to pin the BJP big gun in his own constituency.
The recurring allegation that his Congress opponents here level is that once elected,Khanduri would spend all his time in the state capital Dehra Dun and there would be no one to address the local issues,also seems to have played a part.
The present MLA was popular as he had remained accessible to us throughout his previous term. There are apprehensions that it might not be as easy to contact Khanduriji especially if he becomes the chief minister, said Anuj,a shopkeeper in Kotdwar.
But not everyone shares these apprehensions.
We had put these fears before Khanduri himself during one of his public meetings but he assured us that he would visit us regularly and in his absence,the present MLA Rawat would be his representative in the constituency.
It would be matter of pride and advantage if Khanduri wins this seat and then becomes the CM, said Manmohan Singh Negi,a retired central government servant.
The supporters of the Congress candidate Surendra Singh Negi are quick to pounce on these doubts.
The sitting MLA Rawat had done some work in the area but the BJP has now awarded him by gifting his seat to Khanduri and making Rawat his assistant. Why did Khanduri not contest from Lansdown,where most of the area of his previous constituency Dhumakot has been adjusted, asks M S Rawat,a supporter of Congress candidate Negi.
Khanduri,however,dismisses any such charges emanating from the rival camp. I have represented this area which was a part of the constituency which I represented as an MP. People of the area know me very well, he said over the phone.
When asked how he felt on being the BJP face for its Uttarakhand election campaign Khanduri said he felt obliged.
It is for the party to decide how to use me, he said.
However,some of Khanduri’s supporters do admit that Khanduri’s involvement with the entire state has had an effect on his campaign in this constituency.
The Congress candidate is a local and has been elected from this constituency earlier. But we can equal his support base in the city but are definitely more popular in Bhawar area where a majority of the votes of this constituency are concentrated, said Neeraj,a BJP worker.
The Kotdwar constituency has approximately 91,000 votes of which 55,000 are in the Bhawar locality,the BJP worker said.
Congress supporters are equally optimistic about their support base.
Our candidate has won this seat more than once in the past. When he was a minister,people would refer to him as the ‘hand pump mantri’ because he took numerous initiatives to solve the drinking water problems, said Ashutosh Aggarwal,a supporter of Congress’ Surender Singh Negi.
Though caste is not as much a factor in the Uttarakhand elections as in neighbouring UP,Negi also has the advantage of belonging to the Rajput community which is the largest group in Kotdwar.
Khanduri’s supporters,however,say that it would not matter besides the presence of many families of ex-servicemen in the area would work to his advantage.