Dehradun: With a week to go for assembly elections in Uttarakhand, both the Congress and the BJP are facing a similar predicament — rebels in their ranks are challenging the parties’ official candidates.
While Congress candidates, including its campaign committee head and former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat, are up against disaffected party leaders in nine assembly constituencies, the BJP’s official candidates are facing a similar challenge in a dozen seats, apart from party workers’ resentment in several other constituencies.
Although both parties have managed to persuade some rebels who filed nominations against official candidates to desist from contesting, resistance is stiffest in over 20 assembly segments.
Rebellion was seen among Congress and BJP leaders who fancied their chances in getting tickets, but were denied official nomination by the parties, as well as sitting MLAs in the BJP who were judged to have performed poorly in pre-poll surveys and were denied tickets.
Voting in Uttarakhand will take place on 14 February, with a total of 632 candidates in the fray.
The BJP won 57 seats and the Congress 11 in the 70-member Uttarakhand assembly in the 2017 elections. Two assembly segments were won by Independent candidates.
As the deadline for withdrawal of nominations expired Monday, Congress’ rebel candidates remained in the contest in Yamunotri, Bajpur, Rudraprayag, Sitarganj, Ramnagar, Bageshwar, Ghansali, Dehradun Cantt and Kichha constituencies.
Congress leader and former CM Harish Rawat was originally nominated from the Ramnagar assembly seat. However, Congress leader Ranjit Rawat also fancied his chances from here and, denied a ticket, had decided to contest as a rebel against Rawat.
This compelled the party to shift the former CM from Ramnagar to the Lalkuan assembly segment, quashing the nomination of Sandhya Dalakoti. However, Dalakoti refused to withdraw her nomination and continues to be in the contest as an Independent candidate.
Congress leaders say that Dalakoti, who was formally expelled from the party Wednesday evening, will not be able to make any impact, as Rawat has the support of sitting BJP MLA Naveen Chandra Dumka, who was denied a ticket by his party.
“Efforts were on to get her to work for the party. Sandhya Dalakoti was an important party member and we all respect her, but her reluctance resulted in her expulsion. She failed to understand that the decision by the party leadership was to be respected,” stated Jasbir Singh Rawat, senior Congress leader and close aide of Harish Rawat.
“Even the sitting BJP MLA has spoken in favour of Harish Rawat. Dalakoti’s rebellion will not hamper our winnability. Harish Rawat will emerge victorious by a handsome margin,” he added.
A similar situation exists for the Congress in Yamunotri, where party’s official candidate, Deepak Bijalwan, faces opposition from rebel Congress leader Sanjay Dobhal, who was a strong contender for the ticket this time.
However, in Rishikesh, the Congress was able to persuade another would-be rebel candidate, Shurbir Singh Sajwan, to withdraw his nomination.
Another worry for the main opposition party concerns Rudraprayag, where the official Congress candidate, Pradeep Thapliyal, faces strong resistance from two-time MLA Matbar Singh Kandari, who refused to withdraw his nomination.
When asked about the rebel candidates, Congress leaders claimed that they would not impact the party’s chances.
“The party leadership has successfully quelled the rebellion in most constituencies, barring a few. However, that will not have much impact on our winning prospects, as anti-incumbency against the BJP will neutralise their effect. Those who refused to go by the party line are being shown the door,” said Congress spokesperson Mathura Dutt Joshi.
“Rebellion in the Congress is small compared to that in the BJP. They have hidden rebels in almost half of the constituencies, including intense dissidence in 13 seats, where sitting party legislators were denied tickets. However, the Congress leadership is trying to persuade the remaining rebels to give up,” said Rajiv Mehrishi, senior state Congress spokesperson.
BJP is facing rebellion from disaffected leaders in 12 seats, even as the party managed to convince four rebels to withdraw nominations, including three from the Doiwala constituency, where former CM Trivendra Singh Rawat is the sitting MLA. Rawat has decided not to contest the polls. However, one BJP rebel, Jitendra Singh Negi, is still in the fray as an Independent from Doiwala.
Other assembly segments where official BJP candidates face discontented rebel candidates include Rudrapur, Bhimtal and Kichha in the Kumaon region and Dhanolti, Dehradun Cantt, Dharampur, Yamunotri, Karnprayag, Chakrata, Ghansali and Kotdwar in Garhwal.
Apart from open rebellion in the above constituencies, the BJP faces strong internal dissidence in Dehradun district’s Raipur and Rajpur Road assembly seats, Kaladhungi in Nainital district, Gangolihaat in Pithoragarh district, Piran Kaliyar in Haridwar district and Srinagar in Pauri district, from where Dhan Singh Rawat, a BJP leader and a state minister, is seeking a fresh mandate.
The BJP, however, seems to be in no hurry to take action against its rebels as it is still working to reason with them.
“Disciplinary action or expulsion from the party will be a last resort if the rebels remain reluctant to withdraw. We are still trying to persuade them not to work against the party’s official nominees despite the deadline for withdrawal of nomination being over,” BJP state president Madan Kaushik told ThePrint.
“Let’s give them some time. We are sure they will understand, or else disciplinary action will be initiated,” Kaushik added.
Reasons for rebellion
A senior BJP leader told ThePrint that the party is indeed facing a difficult time dealing with the rebels.
“Constituencies facing subversive activities from local party workers are more in number than the ones being talked about. They will prove detrimental to the party unless the leadership resorts to a contingency approach,” said the BJP leader, who wished to remain anonymous.
According to him, a “majority of the rebellion is seen in seats where sitting MLAs performed badly in the party’s pre-poll surveys, which showed that they would lose their seats if repeated. Almost all the rebels contesting as Independents against official nominees were part of the party panels in their constituencies”.
Dehradun based political analyst Jai Singh Rawat said both BJP and Congress are facing dissidence, but the ruling party is hit harder by rebel candidates.
“This time around, many BJP leaders had high expectations for tickets, especially after the party leadership began sending feelers that it would drop around 25 sitting MLAs owing to their poor performance. This was reflected in their pre-poll survey reports as well, but not seen in ticket distribution,” he said.
(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)