Wednesday’s voting for all five Lok Sabha seats in Uttarakhand will directly test the popularity of the state’s top leaders from both parties.
While BJP has fielded three former chief ministers — B C Khanduri from Pauri, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari from Nainital-Udham Singh Nagar and Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank from Hardwar — Chief Minister Harish Rawat’s wife Renuka Rawat and former CM Vijay Bahuguna’s son Saket Bahuguna are trying their luck as Congress candidates from Hardwar and Tehri respectively.
In 2009 Congress won all five seats. Coming just 11 months after last year’s disaster triggered by flash floods, Rawat’s ability to counter anti-incumbency at the ground level will be on test this time.
Congress has much at stake in Hardwar where Renuka Rawat is locked in a triangular contest against Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank (BJP) and Haji Islam (BSP). Former DGP Kanchan Choudhari (AAP) is also in the fray. The presence of Haji Islam has upset the calculation of the Congress with both banking on Dalit-Muslim votes.
In Pauri former chief minister B C Khanduri (BJP) faces Harak Singh Rawat (Congress), the Sainik Kalyan minister. The Congress has tried to play its caste-card by fielding Harak from Pauri where Thakur voters are in good numbers.
Khanduri’s army background will be an advantage in Pauri which has large number of serving and retired armymen. Interestingly, sitting MP Satpal Maharaj, who quit the Congress to join the BJP in the run-up to the polls, has not been fielded.
Tehri LS seat, which includes Dehradun, will witness a straight fight between BJP’s Mala Rajya Lakshmi Shah — daughter-in-law of erstwhile royal family scion Manabendra Shah who has represented this seat eight times — and Saket Bahuguna, son of former CM Vijay Bahuguna.
Nainital is important for BJP which has fielded former chief minister Bhagat Singh Koshyari. He faces sitting MP K C Singh Baba. Both Baba and Koshyari are popular, accessible and known for their simple lifestyle.
Almora a reserved seat since 2009 following delimitation is CM Rawat’s home district who has represented it thrice. Sitting Congress MP Pradeep Tamta faces Ajay Tamta of BJP.