In a setback to the BJP, Manish Khanduri, son of senior party leader and former Uttarakhand chief minister B C Khanduri, Saturday joined the Congress at party president Rahul Gandhi’s rally in Dehradun.
After being welcomed to the party by Gandhi, Khanduri told the gathering that his father had asked him whether “you can tread the path of truth and work fearlessly”. “I said yes. I want to assure Rahul Gandhi ji that I will serve (the Congress),” he said.
While the Congress is yet to announce candidates for the five Lok Sabha seats in Uttarakhand, party sources said it plans to field Khanduri from Pauri Garhwal seat, which B C Khanduri currently represents as a BJP MP. Manish Khanduri, an MBA graduate in marketing and finance from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the US, has worked in media and IT firms in India and the US.
He has worked in business development and marketing departments of firms. He was also an assistant editor at the Business Standard newspaper, and a senior assistant editor at Businessworld magazine. He joined Facebook in July last year as the head of news partnerships in India.
After welcoming Manish Khanduri into the party fold, Rahul Gandhi said, “(B C) Khanduri ji, who gave his whole life to the country, to national security, to the Army, he asked (the central government) a question on defence preparedness. He was removed from the post of Chairman of the defence committee. Truthfulness has no place in the BJP.” B C Khanduri is a five-time Lok Sabha MP. During 2003-2004, he was the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways. He was an Uttarakhand MLA during 2007-2012 and served as the Uttarakhand CM between March 2007 and June 2009, and during September 2011-March 2012. In September 2014, he was appointed as Chairman of the Standing Committee on Defence. However, he was removed from the post in August last year.
B C Khanduri did not respond to telephone calls from The Indian Express. However, Uttarakhand BJP president Ajay Bhatt, who along with Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat had met Khanduri on Friday at his residence in New Delhi to convince him to contest the upcoming polls from the Pauri Garhwal seat, said, “We had visited Khanduri ji to request him to contest from the Pauri seat, but he said that he was unwell and that he wouldn’t contest the polls. We also discussed his son joining the Congress, and Khanduri ji told us that joining the Congress was his son’s personal decision, and that as a BJP leader he would always serve the BJP irrespective of his son joining the Congress.”
“Manish Khanduri has never been associated with the BJP in any capacity, so he can join any party. It is not our concern,” Bhatt said. Among those seeking a BJP ticket from Pauri seat are NSA Ajit Doval’s son Shaurya Doval, who has been running the ‘Bemisaal Garhwal Abhiyan’ for over a year now, Colonel (retd) Ajay Kothiyal who is credited with the reconstruction of Kedarnath, and Rear Admiral (retd) O P S Rana.
Khanduri’s daughter Ritu Khanduri Bhushan is the MLA from Yamkeshwar segment which is part of the Pauri Lok Sabha constituency. “People can be from the same family yet share different ideologies. What matters is the values of working for the country that our family has instilled in us. My brother and I share the same values but we will work for different political parties. I have been working for the BJP for the last two years and will continue to do so.”