In a major setback to BJP, Manish Khanduri, son of senior party leader and former Uttarakhand Chief Minister Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri, joined Congress on Saturday during Rahul Gandhi’s rally in Dehradun.
After being welcomed to the party by Gandhi, Manish addressed the public saying that his father had asked him about his decision to join the Congress and whether ‘you can tread the path of truth and work fearlessly.’ He replied that he said ‘yes’. He added, “I want to assure Rahul Gandhi ji that I will serve (the Congress)”.
While the party is yet to announce its candidates for the five Lok Sabha seats in Uttarakhand, sources in the Congress said that the party plans to field Manish from the Pauri Garhwal seat, which is currently represented by B C Khanduri as a BJP MP.
With an MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in the United States, Manish has worked in media and IT firms in India and in the United States, holding portfolios in business development and marketing departments.
He has also worked as an Assistant Editor at the Business Standard newspaper, and as a Senior Assistant Editor at the Businessworld magazine. In July, last year, Manish joined Facebook as its head of news partnerships in India.
After welcoming Manish into the party, Rahul Gandhi, who was addressing the rally in Dehradun, said, “(BC) 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.”
BC 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 BC Khanduri on Friday at his residence in New Delhi to convince him to contest the upcoming polls from the Pauri 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 Congress, and Khanduri ji told us that it was his son’s personal decision and that as a BJP leader he would always serve the party.”
“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 to The Indian Express.
Among the people seeking candidature from BJP for the Pauri seat are National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval’s son Shaurya Doval, Colonel (retd) Ajay Kothiyal, and Rear Admiral (retd) O P S Rana.
BC Khanduri’s daughter Ritu Khanduri Bhushan is an MLA from the Yamkeshwar state assembly seat, which is a part of the Pauri Garhwal Lok Sabha constituency.
Uttarakhand BJP president Bhatt said that Manish’s joining the Congress would bear no repercussions for Ritu. “There are several examples where family members are active in different political parties, so it doesn’t matter whether Manish is in the Congress, Ritu is a BJP leader and will continue to remain one,” Bhatt said.
Speaking to The Indian Express Ritu said, “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 I’ll continue to do so.”