Manish Khanduri, son of senior BJP leader and former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Major General (retd.) BC Khanduri, joined the Congress less than a month before Uttarakhand goes to vote in the Lok Sabha elections. The 50-year-old, whose most recent job was with Facebook as its head of news partnerships in India, is the Congress candidate in Pauri Garhwal Lok Sabha constituency – a BJP bastion from where BC Khanduri has been elected to the Lok Sabha five times since 1991. It is Manish’s first attempt at politics, and BC Khanduri, who is a sitting BJP MP from Pauri Garhwal, won’t be campaigning for his son. Also, Khanduri senior’s daughter Ritu Khanduri Bhushan, who is the BJP MLA from the Yamkeshwar state Assembly seat, which falls under the Pauri Garhwal Lok Sabha constituency, has pledged her support to the BJP.
Excerpts from the interview:
What prompted you to join the Congress?
I joined the Congress because I believe in its ideology. I don’t agree with the BJP of today. Congress is discussing the real issues of unemployment, environmental concerns, and political civility which has declined in the past few years. Also, my belief in pluralism made me join Congress.
Do you have your father BC Khanduri’s support?
He’s definitely not surprised by my decision of joining the Congress. He has been very encouraging and I have his blessings.
Your sister Ritu Khanduri Bhushan is a BJP MLA from Yamkeshwar, which falls under Pauri Garhwal Lok Sabha constituency. What has been her reaction to your decision to join the Congress?
She’s a BJP MLA and she’s supporting her party. That’s fine with me. But, at a personal level, she’s supportive of me.
How did you go about contacting the Congress leadership, or did they contact you? And who proposed that you join the party?
I don’t want to answer this.
You joined the Congress on March 16 and the polls here are on April 11. With no political base in Pauri Garhwal and so little time, are you contesting the polls solely on your father’s political legacy?
I haven’t entered politics just for the sake of elections. Elections are incidental. I’m here (in politics) for something more meaningful.
What are the issues on which you are seeking votes from the people of Pauri Garhwal?
Migration is a big issue in the constituency since many people have permanently left their native villages. There’s the issue of dead agricultural practices, employment, healthcare, education. All these issues cannot be addressed in a short period, and much planning is needed to address them.
Issues like nationalism are dominating the election in Pauri Garhwal. Kedarnath, whose reconstruction is one of the pet projects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also falls under Pauri Garhwal constituency. Considering this, do you see the narrative going in BJP’s favour?
The BJP is using a number of marketing strategies, and nationalism is one of them. As far as Kedarnath reconstruction is concerned, I can only say that the sitting MLA from the Kedarnath seat is from the Congress. The people of Kedarnath area clearly know that the Congress is to be credited with the reconstruction of the shrine premises.
How are you using social media for your election campaign?
My answer to this question is that I used to work for Facebook.