Has Khanduri committed political harakiri ?

Dehra Dun: Having played his moves well on the chessboard of Uttarakhand politics and thereby forcing the BJP high command to consider replacing chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, the question doing the rounds in political circles here is whether former chief minister Maj Gen (retd) Bhuvan Chand Khanduri may have committed political hara-kiri.

True corruption had reached its zenith in this state which has the acronym ‘Land of the Gods’ and there was even talk that it had crossed the limits that once highlighted Bihar and people were fed up of it, but it is also a well known secret that though Khanduri may have kept himself in the background of the subtle moves against Nishank, he had put his close confidante and former tourism minister, Lt Gen T P S Rawat at the forefront.

With the state having a substantially large chunk of ex-servicemen and serving soldiers in the electorate and also the fact that the two retired generals-turned-politicians were the highest rank holders amongst the retired and serving ex-servicemen in the state, because of which they could demand and get the support of the men in green, it was obviously decided to launch the attack on the chief minister from this front.

The issue chosen was corruption for obvious reasons. First the Nishank government in the state was marred with one scam after another and corruption had percolated down from the highest echelons of babudom to the low peon.

Second the tirade launched against corruption by Anna Hazare was still alive and processions were being taken out and demonstrations being held every day in support of the Gandhian and against the malaise of corruption.

Lastly but most importantly even the BJP high command, which was also speaking loudly in support of Anna and wiping out corruption could not remain a mute spectator to the allegations of corruption against chief minister Nishank. The obvious has happened.

But perhaps Khanduri has chewn more than he could bite. Party sources here admitted that when Khanduri was made the chief minister of the state in Feb 2007, because of his clean and meticulous record as surface transport minister in the NDA government at the centre, there was a lot of hope and expectations from the Maj Gen.

“But things were not to be, a coterie surrounded Khanduri and rather than delivering the goods and living up to the expectations of the masses, things were being got done by a businessman and a female relative of the chief minister and word was that they could get anything done albeit at a price”, they claimed.

The man who was supposed to change the fortune of the state started being accused of harming the interests of the state and things reached a stage where the same stories that are being said against Nishank today started doing the rounds on the functioning of Khanduri. They even reached the BJP high command at the centre, who decided to replace Khanduri with Nishank after the Maj Gen had been in office for just a little over four years.

Not having been able top deliver the goods during his stint as chief minister, very many doubt that Khanduri will be accepted by the masses, should the party high command decide to replace Nishank with the former armyman.

More over the popularity graph of the party is at its nadir, which can be gauged from the fact that almost all surveys got undertaken by private sources and also the BJP indicate that the party may just get about 10 to 15 seats in the 70-member house.

In the six months (elections in the state are due in Feb next year), it is highly doubtful that Khanduri will be able to bring about any change in the fortunes of the party at the hustings.

Should the BJP not come to power, as the writing on the wall indicates, it could well be the end of the road for Khanduri in BJP politics.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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